The Hazy Origins Of Italy's Beloved Affogato

For the uninitiated, affogato is the ultimate dessert for those who like the juxtaposition of deep contrasts: the black, bitter acidity of espresso meets the pure white creaminess of vanilla ice cream. The word itself also rolls off the tongue nicely in four syllables that rhyme: "ah-foe-ga-toe," an Italian word, which literally translates to "drowned," per Spoon University.

Affogato can refer to any culinary event in which a liquid is poured over cold food. Still, the classic affogato on most menus consists of a scoop of ice cream or gelato that has coffee (alternatively, cappuccino or whiskey or rum for more indulgent versions) poured over it. No matter how you take your affogato, this dessert packs the perfect punch of sweet satisfaction with a caffeine boost. While ice cream has been consumed by humans for thousands of years (via International Dairy Foods Association) and the history of roasting coffee beans equally dates back quite some time, the origins of the affogato are a bit hazy.

The affogato began in Italy, somewhere

While most of us can probably agree that affogato is delicious, where it came from is disputed. According to Porte, some believe that the affogato dessert gained prominence only in the 1950s in Italy, around the same time the ice cream industry became modernized. However, some say that a medieval friar called Angelico from the Piedmont region of Italy spontaneously blended ice cream with espresso, creating affogatos. The French, on the other hand, contend that the affogato hails from Naples (per Pratique) and recommend mixing it up with other ice cream flavors like pistachio and chocolate.

Despite these hazy beginnings, affogato would eventually catch on in other parts of the world. In 1992, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary added "affogato" to our English lexicon, according to Vinepair, but in the United States at least, another icy-coffee drink has likely bumped affogato out of the way and is more widely recognized. In 1994, Starbucks popularized frappuccinos once they purchased a coffee chain founded by George Howell, who had invented the drink after being inspired by another Italian coffee dessert, the cappuccino granita (per Eater), which is basically a coffee-flavored snow cone. 

But for those who prefer a creamier coffee dessert, toss your frappuccinos aside, and grab an affogato instead; you can visit Caffe Panna in New York City, which has its own take on a classic Italian affogato (per Insider) or make your own affogato at home.