Story & Team
Deemed “The World's Best Ice Cream” by The New York Times, we at Toscanini’s take our ice creams, coffees and teas seriously, as do our customers. In September, 1981 Toscanini’s was founded by Gus Rancatore, Kurt Jaenicke, Pearl Morrison, Janet Rosenblatt, Rich Johnston, Diane Depczenski, Pat Johnston, Miriam Stewart, Donna Muffoletto, Cornelia Rancatore, Eleanor Rancatore and Mimi Rancatore, all of whom worked for free and made contributions that enabled the 800 square foot ice cream store at 899 Main Street to survive its first year. The time is clouded in mist -and myth- but Mim Stewart is believed to have made the transition from unpaid friend to first scooper. She was quickly joined by David Shaw, from Fordham Prep and MIT.
“The World's Best Ice Cream" — The New York Times
After 27 years of hard work and dedication, Toscanini’s is now a widely successful family business. All of our ice cream is homemade in store. We are always interested in new flavors. Some flavors are from other parts of the US like Black Bottom Pie, and others are from foreign countries. We try to recognize the fortuitous mistake like Burnt Caramel or Bourbon Vienna Finger Cookie. We serve coffee from Barismo and Batdorf & Bronson and teas from MEM Tea. Baked goods are from Iggy's or baked in the early morning hours before we start making ice cream.
Gus Rancatore came to Boston to finish his undergraduate degree at Boston University but things went awry. He and Mimi both worked at the original Steve's Ice Cream in Davis Square. The opening of Steve's is noted in a timeline that can be found at the lowest level of the Davis Square Red Line station, although there is no mention of Mimi or Gus.
Gus and Kurt Jaenicke started Toscanini's in 1981, with the help of many friends who worried about Gus' future. There were fewer worries about Kurt, who became a doctor. Gus spends time making ice cream, picking up napkins, training people and picking up more napkins. He reads more than he should and enjoys nighttime ice climbing in New Hampshire.
There is only one “m” in the word “team” and that stands for “Mimi.” Mimi is the youngest sister of Gus Rancatore and Joe Rancatore. After working at the original Steve’s in Somerville she graduated to white tablecloth fine dining. That is as nice as it sounds.
Her fine dining adventures include working at the original Michela’s with Michela Larson, Todd English, Barbara Lynch, Chris Myers and Steve Solomon. She has also worked at Clio with Ken Oringer and the young Tony Maws; at Pignoli with Daniele Balliani and Dante de Magistris, and at Rialto with Michela Larson, Joanne Chang and Jody Adams and again with Steve Solomon. She can work her way around a menu and a kitchen.
Now, most of Mimi’s time is taken up with back of the house functions, and she is capable of making superb ice cream. Mimi lives high above the Chelsea waterfront, summers in Block Island, enjoys movies and hang-gliding.
The original store at 899 Main St. was designed by Sandra Fairbank, who has designed many other restaurants. All of the physical changes we have made over the years have been performed by the mighty men and women of Community Builders Cooperative of Somerville, Ma. If you have electrical work that needs to be done you should do what we do and call Fairchild Electric: A Father & Daughter Company in Brookline.
If the espresso machine gets the shakes we call Bay State Espresso. For refrigeration we use Lennox-Martel.
Thanks to Alex Aroyan and Mandy Hong for the photos