Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli
|Died||February 10, 1727 (aged 76)|
|Other names||Procopio Cutò|
|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. Billing himself as a modern Procopius, he founded in 1686 what has become the oldest extant cafe in Paris, Café Procope. 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.
Some sources say Procopio was born near Mount Etna in Sicily around the town of Aci Trezza. Other sources say he was born at or near Palermo, Sicily. A certificate of baptism of 10 February 1651 has been found in the archives of the parish church of Sant'Ippolito in Palermo, one day after the birth of Procopio. The document shows his first name as Francesco and his surname as Cutò, a common surname in Sicily. A third possibility is that he was born near Palermo and lived in Aci Trezza for a period of time.
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. "Francesco Procopio" are his forenames; 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 father Onofrio Cutò and his mother Domenica Semarqua. Procopio and Marguerite had eight children during their long marriage before Procopio became a widower.
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. 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.
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.
Procopio acquired the skills to become a cook, possibly in Palermo on his way to France. Procopio arrived in Paris sometime between 1670 and 1674. 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. Pascal's attempt at such a business in Paris was not successful and he went to London in 1675, leaving the stall to Procopio who took it over, and later moved to rue des Fossés Saint Germain.
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. 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. This gave him exclusive rights to these unique sweet and cool products from his kiosk booth at Foire Saint Germain.
Prior to Procopio arriving in France there had been other cafés (coffee houses) there, although they were not called cafés at the time. Some were referred to as lemonade stands, meaning they sold various cold drinks including lemonade. There had been a café in Marseille in 1644 before Pascal and Procope that soon became defunct, and a Levantine had opened a coffee house in Paris in 1643, which had also failed:
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
It seems, however, that the Armenian Pascal was the first to call his establishment a "café" or coffee house where one drinks coffee.
Procopio soon added coffee to his refreshments' list and the kiosk became a cafe. 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. Prior to then it was reserved for royalty only. Procopio's café served it in small porcelain bowls that resembled egg cups. He is sometimes referred to as "The Father of Italian gelato".
Procopio opened his café in 1686, and it was named Le Procope, from the French version of his name. It was referred to as an "antre" (cavern or cave) because it was so dark inside, even when there was bright sunshine outside. Procopio purchased a bath house and had its unique fixtures removed; he installed in his new café items now standard in modern European cafés (crystal chandeliers, wall mirrors, marble tables).
Procopio opened his café about the same time that the Comédie-Française opened its doors. Conveniently, the theater was located across the street from his café. 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.
|“||Café Procope. Here founded Procopio dei Coltelli in 1686 the oldest coffeehouse 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. 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. His café in the 17th century turned France into a coffee drinking society. It is considered the most famous and successful cafe in Paris. To fans of French history Procopio's business is considered the holy grail of Parisian cafes.
Procopio's café became a very popular cultural and political gathering place. Notable people who have frequented the café include 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. 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.
Procopio obtained French citizenship in 1685. 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Café Procope.|
- Restaurant Le Procope founded in 1686
- THE CAFE PROCOPE by Addison May Rothrock; Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (1886-1915); Jun 1906; 77, 462; American Periodicals Series Online, pg. 702
- Marcello Messina, "The café Le Procope" in Scirocco, Year 3, Nov. / Dec. 2003, pp. 19-21
- Ukers, p. 94
- Fitch, p. 43
- Early Ices and Ice Creams, p. 17[permanent dead link]
- Kiefer, Nicholas M. (2002). "Economics and the Origin of the Restaurant" (PDF). Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly. 43 (4): 58–64. doi:10.1177/0010880402434006.
- 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
- "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
- Kopfer, p. 12
- Fosca, François (1934). Histoire des Cafés de Paris (in French). Paris: Firmin- Didot. OCLC 1330080.
- Gelato 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
- Procopio gelateria
- 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.
- 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.
- Early Ices and Ice Creams, p. 17[permanent dead link] 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.
- Portinari, It was the first café in Paris and is still open and active today.
- Albala, p. 84 The first cafe in Paris, Le Procopio, was opened by the Sicilian Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli in 1686.
- The Great Cafes of Paris
- 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).
- Thomazeau, pp. 70-73
- Frommer's Portable Paris By Darwin Porter To fans of French history, this is the holy grail of Parisian cafes.
- Fitch, p. 43 During the French Enlightenment (1715-89) the Encyclopédie was born here in conversations between Diderot and d'Alembert.
- Albala, Ken (2003). Food in Early Modern Europe. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0-313-31962-6.
- Dejean, Joan (2006). The Essence of Style: How the French Invented High Fashion, Fine Food, Chic Cafes, Style, Sophistication, and Glamour. New York: Free Press. ISBN 0-7432-6414-2.
- Fitch, Noël Riley (2007). Grand Literary Cafes of Europe. New York: New Holland Publishers (UK) LTD. ISBN 1-84537-114-3.
- Moramarco, Federico (2000). Italian Pride: 101 Reasons to Be Proud You're Italian. City: Citadel Trade. ISBN 1-55972-512-5.
- Portinari, Folco (1987). Voglia di Gelato. Milano: Idea Libri. ISBN 88-7082-113-7.
- Thomazeau, François; Ageorges, Sylvain (2007). "Le Procope". The Brasseries of Paris. New York: New York Review of Books. ISBN 1-892145-49-9.
- Ukers, William H., All About Coffee - The Project Gutenberg EBook
- Weinberg, Bennett Alan; Bealer, Bonnie K. (2001). "Europe wakes up to caffeine". The World of Caffeine: the science and culture of the world's most popular drug. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-92722-6.