Scarborough's cornet voluntary

Giulian Alonzi trained as an accountant. But he soon found he preferred the toppings and sauces of the family business. Harvey McGavin reports.

It may say "caterer" on Giulian Alonzi's passport. "But there's an Italian word for what I do," he says. "I'm an ice cream artesan."

You can buy Giulian's mouthwatering wares at The Harbour Bar, a 1940s concoction of mirrors, chrome and primary colours as bright and exotic as any of the self indulgent dishes on offer.

The bar has been a fixture on Scarborough's seafront for 50 years. Giulian, 48, is the latest in an even longer line of Alonzis, one of the first families to introduce gelati to the North Yorkshire resort.

Giulian's grandfather came to Scarborough in 1906, from the village of Picinisco south of Rome, and set himself up as a beach vendor, selling hot chestnuts in winter and ice cream in the summer.

"He arrived here having no money, not knowing anyone and not speaking a word of English. There was already a small Italian community in the town -they had to make a living somehow and they thought maybe there was a market in ice cream."

Then, in 1945, Giulian's father Tony bought the shop for Pounds 3,000. It's still a family business - Giulian's wife Theresa, niece Anna, sister-in-law Oona and his nephew's girlfriend Laura all work there. And his 83-year-old mum Annie makes the special chocolate sauce.

The parlour celebrated its half century last year by offering Knickerbocker Glories at their original price of half a crown. Nowadays there are a dozen sundaes, from traditional staples like the Peach Melba to current favourite the Chocalata. It's not just desserts - there are toasted sandwiches and cups of tea too. But the main attraction is the smooth, sweet white stuff.

Giulian churns out around 1,200 gallons of ice cream every week in the height of summer. The factory behind the parlour is spotless, a gleaming production line of steaming silver vats.

There's some more silverware in the shop. Behind the semi-circular counter stands a replica of the trophy awarded in 1993 for the best ice cream in the UK.

Giulian started his ice cream apprenticeship as a boy, helping out in the parlour and washing up. One day, he sneaked into the factory and made his first 60 gallon batch, much to the amazement of his father. He trained as an accountant but soon realised he preferred toppings and sauces to totting up.

The new designer brands don't cut much ice. For him, original is still best. His ice cream contains up to 12 per cent milk fat solids, more than twice the legal minimum for "dairy" ice cream. The flavourings (chocolate, vanilla, lemon and blackcurrant) are all natural and the sauces are home made. He wouldn't compromise on standards - never in a month of sundaes.

"You only get out what you put in. I'm a great believer in quality of ingredients. To make good ice cream you need a good sense of taste and you need to be able to get the same taste every time - a consistent quality.

"A lot of people think ice cream just comes out of a machine. They can't believe what's involved. We get a lot of schools coming to look round the factory and the kids are amazed when I tell them we use seaweed to thicken it."

Youngsters from Hinderwell School in the town produced a colourful array of drawings after a recent visit. They get merit points for being well behaved during the term and the ones with the most points get a free Knickerbocker Glory. The posters will decorate the parlour for the duration of National Ice Cream Week, which finishes this weekend and began with a sundaemaking competition, hosted by trade association the Ice Cream Alliance.

Giulian, Theresa, Anna and Laura travelled down to London hoping to lick the opposition. The girls scooped joint fourth prize with their kaleidoscopic creations "Oyster la Vista" and "Dessert Island". Afterwards, in the plush surroundings of Planet Hollywood, they were oblivious to the film star memorabilia lining the walls.

Instead, they were watching a video showing decorative techniques of ice cream preparation, and commenting disapprovingly on minor lapses in hygiene regulations. The future of Alonzi's ice cream seems in safe hands.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you