Ragusa: The ideal place to enjoy old-timey Italian ice cream

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Maintaining its interior since the times of Batavia. (photo: IO/Mahra Yuni)

IO, Jakarta – Ice cream is one of the most beloved desserts, with its sweet taste, cold sensation on the tongue, and refreshing feeling with every bite. Not only that, a variety of interesting forms and flavors make ice cream even more enticing.

One of the most legendary ice cream shops is Ragusa Es Italia, a shop which has been around since 1932 – the era of Batavia. The Italian “gelato” (ice cream) products sold here use fresh dairy products, giving it a soft texture. Their gelato is also free of preservatives. Ragusa was created by two Italians named Luigie Ragusa and Vincenzo Ragusa who came to Batavia in the 1930s to do business in the Central Jakarta area.

The ice cream shop is in its original building which has Dutch designs, giving it an old-timey feel. The walls are decorated with pictures of Ragusa’s height of popularity in its earlier years. The ice cream shop has a rectangular interior with old rattan chairs and round tables, usually filled by visitors. The cash register and serving section are also very antique-looking. The shop does not have air conditioning – only fans and a tall interior to keep the air cold. The owner purposefully keeps the old-timey look for visitors. The shop is located in Jalan Veteran I No. 10, Gambir, Jakarta Pusat.

What makes Ragusa unique is the antique look of its ice cream. The ice cream not only looks like ice cream of the past but also maintains its original taste. The Italian ice cream shop sells eight basic flavors: chocolate, vanilla, mocha, strawberry, nougat, durian, pandanus, and rum raisin, with a number of other menus combining them.

When I visited the ice cream store, one of my friends ordered Ragusa’s most popular item: the spaghetti ice cream. The spaghetti ice cream is shaped like spaghetti and topped with nuts, raisins, succade, and covered in chocolate sauce. I, myself ordered a banana split which consists of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice cream sitting on a banana with toppings similar to the spaghetti ice cream: chocolate sauce, chopped fried peanuts, and succade. The ice cream tasted nice, especially the vanilla ice cream which was milky, fragrant and had a soft texture.

Another item on the menu, the cassata siciliana, is served on an aluminum plate and consists of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla and pandanus ice cream with a piece of pandanus sponge cake (bolu) frozen in the middle. The combination of ice cream and sponge cake creates a unique texture. The tutti frutti, another item on the menu, consists of chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla ice cream. It differs from the cassata siciliana as it does not have a pandanus sponge cake in the middle but rather differently colored succade sprinkled on top. The combination of the ice cream and the succades created a lovely taste.

The ice cream is priced from around Rp 15,000 to Rp 35,000. Visitors do not need to reach deep into their pockets to enjoy this ice cream. Every visitor is also given a glass of water.

All the ice cream is handmade; unfortunately, however, the ice cream melts quickly, especially when eaten at noon. Other than enjoying ice cream, visitors can also order food from other vendors around the shop, such as otak-otak, satay, and gado-gado. (Mahra Yuni)