It may seem subtle but influential old ice cream shops do contribute our modern dessert lifestyle for decades. Among the most famous, The Foodie Magazine would like to introduce you again with Jakarta’s one and only – Ragusa Es Italia.
The subjects about the origin of food and how it travels around the world have long become interesting discourses for many. If you could relate the researches with what you see in actual, you will find that our eating culture came from various influences.
In particular, the Western influences are preserved well by the inheritor of colonial businesses as seen in big cities around Indonesia. Many preserve it conservatively but everything remains authentic.
Ragusa is among the old guards of ice cream business, peered directly only by Toko Oen in Semarang and Malang or Zangrandi in Surabaya. To top the somewhat indirect competition, Ragusa earned the title as the oldest living ice cream parlor just several years ago by MURI – Indonesia’s own record awarder foundation.
The ice cream shop itself was founded quite unintentionally in the beginning. During the Batavia time, Luigi and Vincenzo – the siblings who hailed from Ragusa in Italy, originally started tailor apprenticeship in the city. However, upon their discovery of the abundance of milk from a producer in Bandung, they decided to abandon the career as tailors and instead, opened an ice cream shop.
Named after the town they came from, Ragusa gained prominence among the foreigners when they first opened it in Pasar Gambir, the site of famous night fair situated on the exact location before Monumen Nasional (Monas) was built.
After years of never ending heyday, then came the Japanese imperialists who took over Indonesia from the Dutch. In the final years of World War II, many of the foreigners already fled the country and affected Ragusa’s business. They were even forced to close temporarily, but just two years after the end of World War II, they reopened the shop again on Jalan Veteran not far from the old place that survives until this day.
Knowing that currently the business is no longer owned by the original Italian family, we met the current proprietress, Ibu Sias Mawarni, to tell us a bit about how it was inherited.
She has a jolly persona and a lot of stories to share. She’s showing her thirst for knowledge, especially with her currently taking degrees in management and advanced Mandarin, that appears insatiable. Before the real story of Ragusa kicks in, she reminded me to always find time to help the needy and that way, your life will be blessed with wealth and happiness. It’s a reminder that we always need to hear from time to time.
The fateful year was in 1972. The original owners had to return back to Italy for a couple of months to settle some family affairs there. Worried with what will happen to the ice cream shop, Ibu Sias Mawarni and his husband as their loyal assistants ensured them that everything will be alright.
After further consideration, the Italians decided to inherit the business instead to them. The affairs apparently required them to return for good. According to Ibu Sias herself when she visited Italy back in 1979, they’re now happily settling back and running a successful hospitality business.
“My visit that year to Italy inspired our iconic Spaghetti Ice Cream. It’s been a huge success ever since”, she said.
By utilizing a special machine, the ice cream is pumped through small holes that will create spaghetti shape. Once served, it is then topped with sukade or the dried fruits, chocolate sauce, and crushed nuts. Aside from the spaghetti ice cream, Ragusa is also known for its one and only foil-wrapped tutti fruity ice cream and the velvety coupe de maison with an exciting nougat flavor.
The character of Ragusa’s ice cream is much different than the creamy, modern type. It has bit of more watery consistency but has a mild texture. With a good milky taste and natural flavors, its ice cream has been standardized for decades to produce maximum pleasure.
Business was booming until 1998, the time when Ibu Sias lost many of her 22 outlets around Jakarta due to the riot. She’s now running several outlets left, but even so, business has always been good and steady. The wound is still there but she seemed in high spirit and grateful nevertheless.
As the most iconic part of Jalan Veteran, Ragusa has been attracting people for years. To fulfill the satiate of its loyal customers, Ragusa cooperates with street food pushcarts stationed in front of it. They serve asinan, sate ayam, otak-otak, and gado-gado to accompany the desserts. That way, people would come for lunch and enjoy scoops of good ice cream at the same time.
RAGUSA ES ITALIA
Some dishes are suitable for vegetarians
Jalan Veteran I no. 10, Jakarta – Indonesia
Opening hours: Daily, 10am – 10.30pm
Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE Feb 2015 edition
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