Czech-Italian family transforms Prague's oldest ice cream shop into a dreamy gelateria

Prague's first Italian gelateria uses milk from Krkonoše cows and authentic Sicilian know-how from owner Pietro.

Marcus Bradshaw

Written by Marcus Bradshaw Published on 07.05.2021 10:19:00 (updated on 07.12.2021) Reading time: 6 minutes

From an early age, Pietro Amato has been surrounded by ice cream. He grew up in Sicily, in an apartment that faced a gelateria, and he spent his student days selling ice cream while he earned his degree in political science. So perhaps it was fated that one day – along with his Czech wife, Eva – he would open the first real Italian gelateria in Prague.

Pietro met Eva in Britain, when they both worked for the same pharmaceutical company. They married and decided to settle in Prague, where the couple dreamed of starting their own business, rather than continuing in the corporate rat race. Eva’s background was in finance and while the couple searched around for a business idea, Pietro recalled fond memories of his student job selling gelato.

As the seed of an idea took hold, Pietro began to read up on gelato and before long, he was heading to Italy to attend a special gelato-making course. There, he made the leap from political science to food science, and after completing his studies and sitting a state exam, he qualified as an artisan gelatiere.

A well-balanced ice cream requires real alchemy: you have to give it the right creamy consistency; it has to correctly highlight the flavor which will remain on your tongue, and it cannot be too sweet; nor can it be too liquid, or too hard, that it is difficult to serve. - Pietro Amato

Pietro returned to Prague, and the couple decided to open their first gelateria in their own Letná neighborhood. Amato Gelateria opened its doors in 2015. Their artisan ice cream became an instant hit with locals and before long, queues began to form on hot summer days. 

The success of Amato's ice cream, Pietro says, is based on the quality of their ingredients. “The milk is the base. It comes from farms in the Krkonoše and in Vysočina.” He explains that he visited the farms and was impressed by how the animals are treated, which influenced his choice of suppliers. “Their milk is thick, I can really taste the cream, which rises to the surface because the milk is not homogenized.” 

Another key factor in the Amatos’ success is the wide variety of flavors that they offer. Their range balances Italian gelato classics such as Vanilla, Chocolate, and Pistachio, which delight customers with their sharp and intense flavors, with unusual combinations such as Saffron with Almonds, Gorgonzola with Walnuts, and Bread, Butter, and Marmalade – designed to tickle the taste buds of the more curious customer.

We are always working to come up with interesting new flavours. Last year, we presented Grapefruit with Campari, Lemon Curd, Mont Blanc, Cubaita, and Saffron with Orange.

"We have already developed new flavors for this year, which customers can soon expect to see in our shops, so follow our social media to find out our weekly special flavor," says Eva.

Amato Gelateria is perhaps most famous for their signature Salted Caramel, which Pietro says was previously unheard-of in Prague until a customer entered the shop one day looking for it: “I looked online and discovered that it was a really popular flavour in the USA and Australia. This inspired me to devise my own recipe for it, and today it is our bestseller.” 

Seasonality plays a big part in deciding which flavors will be available, says Pietro. “Our best-selling flavor is still Salted Caramel. Afterward comes Chocolate, Vanilla, Mango, and during the season, it’s Strawberry,” he says. "We don't offer Strawberry in winter, even though it's highly requested, as we only use seasonal fresh fruit."

"The flavour of locally grown fruit is more intense  – due to the shorter transportation time, and the fact that the fruit is more mature at the time of picking".

"In summer, we've lots of sorbets – strawberry, red and black currant, gooseberry, apricot, watermelon, and plums, while in autumn we use apples, pears, and pumpkin. Of course, this is more work for us, cleaning and squeezing the fruit, but the results are well worth it," says Pietro. "Also, all of our sorbets are suitable for vegans."

"Sometimes, we make vegan ice cream with coconut, almond, or other plant-based milk. We also have a No-Added-Sugar ice cream, which is really appreciated by customers who are on a special diet."

Sometimes a flavor can really capture the customers’ imagination, and regular customers often enjoy trying new ones. “If they develop a taste for a new flavor, it can easily become a classic, as happened with our Cucumber, Lemon, and Mint sorbet,” says Pietro.

"We often think it will be a one-off, but our customers like the flavor so much that it stays on our list – Gorgonzola and Walnuts is a great example. Gorgonzola is an Italian blue cheese and this flavor is really unusual, but our customers kept asking for it!"

Building on the success of Amato Gelateria in Letná, Eva and Pietro decided to open a second shop on Vodičková street in the city centre. They set their sights on "U Itala", an old confectionary that is steeped in history. Literally translating as “at the Italian” it seemed the natural choice.

The original cafe was founded in 1897 and is considered the oldest ice cream shop in Czechoslovakia, and probably one of the oldest north of the Alps. Known as the "Italská Cukrárna", or "U Itala", it was one of the few ice cream shops that existed in Communist-era Prague. “People would queue for ice cream, not just during the summer”, says Eva, “it was so well known that it was even mentioned in some movies.”

“Sadly, after the Velvet Revolution, the 'Italská Cukrárna' slowly declined in popularity and quality”, says Eva, “and the new generation is no longer familiar with the name. Pietro and I loved the idea of bringing new life to such a historic place in Prague, especially one that had many memories for many people, and so after extensive restoration, we opened Amato U Itala in March 2019.”

The refit has created a contemporary gelateria in white and pastel colors that have won design plaudits; it recently earned recognition as one the most stylish ice cream shops in the Czech Republic by Czech Design magazine. The shop offers 22 frequently changing gelato flavors, as well as authentic Italian coffee, homemade cakes, and other sweet treats. Naturally, everything is made on-site, guaranteeing the freshest product each day.

Aside from Eva and Pietro, the family enterprise includes two other members of the Amato family – Pietro’s sister Vincenza, who is in charge of gelato production, and the couple’s ten-year-old daughter Greta, who has the enviable job of “quality manager” – the onerous task of tasting the quality of all of the ice cream!

The Amato family clearly loves what they do, and it shows. “Many of our customers speak Italian, as we’re regularly visited by tourists and residents alike,” says Pietro. “It’s interesting, given Italians’ famous suspicion of Italian gastronomy abroad, but in this case, it’s not surprising. This is real Italian gelato in Prague.”

This article was written in association with Amato Gelateria. Amato is currently open at two locations in Letná and Vodičkova street in the city center. Visit them now for a free chocolate topping at their Vodičkova location. With the promo code "AMATO30" there is also currently 30% off on all ice cream for a limited time only. Read more about our partner content policies here.

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