Procopio Cutò

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Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli
Procopio dei Coltelli.jpg
Born (1651-02-09)February 9, 1651
Palermo or Aci Trezza, Italy
Died February 10, 1727(1727-02-10) (aged 76)
Paris, France
Nationality French
Other names Procopio Cutò
Occupation French entrepreneur
Known for Pioneer in the Italian gelato business
Opened the first literary coffeehouse, Café Procope

Procopio Cutò, or Francesco Procopio Cutò or Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli (9 February 1651 - 10 February 1727) was an Italian chef from Sicily.[1] Billing himself as a modern Procopius, he founded in 1686 what has become the oldest extant cafe in Paris, Café Procope.[2] It became the first literary coffeehouse in Paris. For over 200 years the cafe-restaurant attracted notables in the world of arts, politics, and literature.[3]

Biography[edit]

Founded Café Procope in Paris in 1686.

Some sources say Procopio was born near Mount Etna in Sicily around the town of Aci Trezza.[1][4][5] Other sources say he could have been born at or near Palermo, Sicily.[6] A certificate of baptism of 10 February 1651 was found in the archives of the parish church of Sant'Ippolito in Palermo.[6] This is one day after the birth of Procopio. The document shows his first name as Francesco and his surname as Cutò, not couteaux which means knives in French. Cutò is a typical Sicilian surname. A third possibility is that he was born near Palermo and lived in Aci Trezza for a period of time.[6]

Procopio received his name of dei Coltelli from the French, who misunderstood his Sicilian family name of Cutò, which is a homophone of couteaux, "knives" in French. Coltelli means "knives" in Italian. Hence, translating back into Italian gives Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli (Francesco Procopio of knives), the other name he is known by.[1] "Francesco Procopio", the names he is often referred to as, is being used as two first names. Procopio is not his surname. Francesco was his grandfather's name.

Procopio married Marguerite Crouin in 1675 in the church of Saint Sulpice. The marriage record shows the witnesses as his parents, Onofrio Cutò and Sunday Semarqua. "Onofrio" is his father and "Sunday" is his mother. Procopio and Marguerite had eight children during their long marriage before Procopio became a widower.[6]

Early life[edit]

Procopio played in the snow when he was a boy. The snow was mixed with fruit juices and honey to make a type of sorbet. This type of "ice cream" was eaten by both rich aristocrats and by peasants.[1] This is where Procopio got the idea of developing gelato. The history of gelato shows Procopio as a most influential person in promoting this new food.[7][8]

Procopio worked first as a fisherman like his father Onofrio. His grandfather Francesco, becoming part of Procopio's name, was also a fisherman from Aci Trezza who built gelatiere machines (ice cream makers) part-time, when he was not fishing. Francesco eventually left his invention to Procopio as an inheritance. Procopio tinkered with his grandfather's "ice cream" machine making various improvements. Procopio eventually felt that he had developed a machine that would produce gelato on a large scale and decided to promote the new product. He left Sicily and went to France by way of Italy.[9]

Mid life[edit]

Procopio acquired the skills to become a cook, possibly in Florence or Palermo on his trek to France.[10] Procopio eventually arrived in Paris around 1670 to 1674.[10] There he joined the guild of the distillateurs-limonadiers (English: distiller - soft drinks manufacturers) and apprenticed under the leadership of Armenian immigrant Pascal who had a kiosk (la loge de la limonade, English: lemonade stand) on rue de Tournon selling refreshments, including lemonade and coffee.[11][12] Pascal's attempt at such a business in Paris was not successful and he went to London in 1675, leaving the stall to Procopio[12][13] who took it over, and later moved to rue des Fossés Saint Germain.[12][13][14]

Prior to Procopio arriving in France there had been other cafés/coffee houses there, although they were not called cafés at the time.[13] Some were referred to as lemonade stands, meaning they sold various cold drinks including lemonade. There had been a café/coffee house in Marseille in 1644 before Pascal and Procope that soon became defunct,[13] and a Levantine had opened a coffee house in Paris in 1643, which had also failed:[13]

En 1643 déjà un Levantin en avait bien ouvert un à Paris,... mais cela n’avait pas réussi.
English: In 1643 already, a ‘Levantine’ opened one (coffee house) in Paris, but that did not succeed.

—F. Fosca[15]

It seems, however, that the Armenian immigrant Pascal was the first to call his boutique a "café" or coffee house where one drinks coffee.[13]

Debating the issues of the time

Procopio opened his extant café in 1686, and it was named Le Procope, from the French version of his name.[1] It was referred to as an "antre" (cavern or cave) because it was so dark inside, even when there was bright sunshine outside.[10] Procopio purchased a bath house and had its unique fixtures removed and installed in his new café (i.e. crystal chandeliers, wall mirrors, marble tables), items now standard in modern European cafés.[16][17]

Procopio had learned in about 1680 how to make a beverage of ice made of lemonade using salt to lower its temperature and keep cooler longer.[18] Procopio had a special royal license from King Louis XIV to sell a melange of refreshments including spices, iced drinks including "frozen waters", barley water, anice flower, orange flower, cinnamon flower, frangipan, and his improved version of the Italian "ice cream" of fruit based gelatos like lemon and orange.[19][20] This gave him exclusive rights to these unique sweet and cool products from his kiosk booth at Foire Saint Germain.[20][21] He soon added coffee to his refreshments' list and the kiosk became a coffeehouse cafe.[10] Procopio introduced the Italian "ice cream" gelato at his cafe and is one of the first to sell this new European product directly to the public.[22][23] Prior to then it was reserved for royalty only.[24] Procopio's café served it in small porcelain bowls that resembled egg cups.[25] He is sometimes referred to as "The Father of Italian gelato".[26]

Procopio opened his café about the same time that the Comédie-Française opened its doors.[4] Conveniently, the theater was located across the street from his café.[4] Procopio's café is considered the first true modern coffee house. The brasserie that Procopio started with serving drinks and food is the oldest Parisian restaurant.[27][28][29]

It is the oldest cafe in Paris that is still in business today, over 300 years later.[30][31][32] A plaque at the establishment states that it is the world's oldest continually functioning cafe.[33][34]

Café Procope. Here founded Procopio dei Coltelli in 1686 the oldest coffehouse of the world and the most famous center of the literary and philosophic life of the 18th and 19th centuries. It was frequented by La Fontaine, Voltaire and the Encyclopedistes: Benjamin Franklin, Danton, Marat, Robespierre, Napoleon Bonaparte, Balzac, Victor Hugo, Gambetta, Verlaine and Anatole France.

Procopio's café and "ice cream" establishment was one of the first in France to serve coffee and gelato.[35] Café Procope ("Le Procope"), being across the street from Comédie Française, attracted many actors, writers, musicians, poets, philosophers, revolutionaries, statesmen, scientists, dramatists, stage artists, playwrights, literary critics and Americans to frequent the establishment.[4][36] His café in the 17th century turned France into a coffee drinking society.[14] It is considered the most famous and successful cafe in Paris.[25][37][38] To fans of French history Procopio's business is considered the holy grail of Parisian cafes.[39][40]

Procopio's café became a very popular cultural and political gathering place.[5] Certain notable people who have frequented the café over the years have been Maximilien Robespierre, Victor Hugo, Paul Verlaine, Honoré de Balzac Pierre Beaumarchais, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Alain-René Lesage, Georges Danton, Jean-Paul Marat, Honoré de Balzac and Denis Diderot.[1] Even Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Paul Jones, Oscar Wilde, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Napoleon Bonaparte and Voltaire visited Procopio's cafe not only for coffee and intellectual conversations, but for gelato.[9][10][14][24]

There are words above the door at Procopio's establishment that read: Café à la Voltaire.[4] Voltaire is known to have said: "Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal."[12]

The birthplace of the Encyclopédie, conceived by Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert, is said to be at Procopio's café.[41]

Later life[edit]

Procopio obtained French citizenship in 1685.[10] He married a second time in 1696 and fathered five more children with Anne Françoise Garnier. He was married a third time at the age of 66, in 1717, to Julie Parmentier and had another son.[6]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Portinari
  2. ^ Restaurant Le Procope founded in 1686
  3. ^ Paris - Café Procope
  4. ^ a b c d e THE CAFE PROCOPE by Addison May Rothrock; Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (1886-1915); Jun 1906; 77, 462; American Periodicals Series Online, pg. 702
  5. ^ a b Mister Gel
  6. ^ a b c d e Marcello Messina, "The café Le Procope" in Scirocco, Year 3, Nov. / Dec. 2003, pp. 19-21
  7. ^ Pease Pudding
  8. ^ Histor of gelato
  9. ^ a b Gelato history by Gianpaolo Grazioli
  10. ^ a b c d e f Ukers, p. 94
  11. ^ Fitch, p. 43
  12. ^ a b c d Early Ices and Ice Creams, p. 17
  13. ^ a b c d e f Kiefer, Nicholas M. (2002). "Economics and the Origin of the Restaurant". Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly 43 (4): 58–64. doi:10.1177/0010880402434006. 
  14. ^ a b c The first Paris cafe was probably Le Procope, opened about 1675 (it moved to its present location in 1686) by a Sicilian, who helped turn France into a coffee-drinking society. Literary Cafes of Paris by Noel Riley Fitch, Starrhill Press, Washington & Philadelphia
  15. ^ Fosca, François (1934). Histoire des Cafés de Paris (in French). Paris: Firmin- Didot. OCLC 1330080. 
  16. ^ Fitch, p. 43 An often overlooked feature of the Procope's place in cafe history is Procopio's purchase of a bath-house, whose fittings he had extracted and installed in his coffee-house; large wall mirrors, marble-topped tables, and many other features that have since become standard in cafes throughout Europe.
  17. ^ Early Ices and Ice Creams, p. 17 Procope’s café boasted glittering crystal chandeliers, marble-topped tables, and shimmering mirrors and was, by all accounts, dazzling. It set the standard for all that followed.
  18. ^ "A history of inventions and discoveries. By John Beckmann, ... Translated from German by William Johnston. ..." Vol.3. London, 1797. Eighteenth Century Collections Online. Gale. Library of Congress. 19 May 2009
  19. ^ Kopfer, p. 12
  20. ^ a b World Pastry
  21. ^ A Passion for GELATO
  22. ^ Angelati Italia Gelato in Al Dente
  23. ^ Galeto found commercial success in France in 1686, where it was created by Sicilian Francesco Procopio dei Cotelli at Cafe Procope in Paris. Gelato! By Pamela Sheldon Johns
  24. ^ a b Procopio gelateria
  25. ^ a b Gelato - History
  26. ^ Moramarco, p. 208 The father of Italian gelato is Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli, a Sicilian aristocrat who established a chain of coffee houses throughout Europe in the late seventeenth century.
  27. ^ Guide to Paris restaurants
  28. ^ LE PROCOPE : THE OLDEST CAFE IN PARIS
  29. ^ Restaurant Name: "Le Procope." Established in 1686, this is the oldest restaurant in Paris and the first coffee house of the world. Le Procope: The oldest restaurant in Paris
  30. ^ Portinari, It was the first café in Paris and is still open and active today.
  31. ^ Albala, p. 84 The first cafe in Paris, Le Procopio, was opened by the Sicilian Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli in 1686.
  32. ^ The Great Cafes of Paris
  33. ^ What's the oldest bar in Paris? by Phil Chavanne
  34. ^ Dejean, p. 139 The Cafe Procope remained on the rue de Tournon until 1686, when it moved a few minutes away to the rue des Fossis Saint-German (today's rue de L'Ancienne Comedie, where the establishment, by now the oldest continually functioning cafe in the world, can still be found at number 13).
  35. ^ Over the Tuscan stove
  36. ^ Thomazeau, pp. 70-73
  37. ^ Gelato Cream
  38. ^ And over the last three centuries, Le Procope has been the meeting place for anyone who was anyone in the arts or the letters or the politics of Paris. First Walkabout
  39. ^ PROCOPE CAFÉ, PARIS Part 2
  40. ^ Frommer's Portable Paris By Darwin Porter To fans of French history, this is the holy grail of Parisian cafes.
  41. ^ Fitch, p. 43 During the French Enlightment (1715-89) the Encyclopédie was born here in conversations between Diderot and d'Alembert.

Sources[edit]