Two weeks ago, when the Massachusetts Revenue Department shut Toscanini’s, a revered ice-cream shop, for nonpayment of taxes, customers were livid — but not at the shop’s owners, who the state said owed $167,810, mostly in sales taxes but some payroll taxes.
They rose in defense of Toscanini’s, donating more than $30,000 in one week to help the owners, Gus and Mimi Rancatore, make enough of a payment to reopen. Sam Mehr, a college student who works there and set up a Web site to solicit contributions, said that about 300 poured in between Jan. 18, the day after the shop was seized, and last Friday.
Corby Kummer, a senior editor at The Atlantic Monthly and an ardent fan who once wrote a long essay about his favorite flavor, burnt caramel, said the ice cream was not the only thing that kindled their passion.
“It’s also the intellectual bonhomie that is served along with the ice cream,” said Mr. Kummer ...
But for sure, it is the ice cream, too. Mr. Rancatore and his team of ice-cream makers scour cookbooks for new flavor possibilities and seek ideas from customers, many of whom grew up in other countries. A Harvard professor from India helped concoct a flavor called kulfi, with cardamom and pistachios, based on a South Asian dessert. Another flavor, grapenut, is popular with customers from the Caribbean.
“If a bunch of people from Lithuania showed up in Cambridge,” said Mr. Rancatore, who opened the shop in 1981, “we’d try to find out what we could sell them that would remind them of home.”
This is not to say that everyone loved the idea of helping the Rancatores out of their self-inflicted predicament. Many who posted comments on the Web site savetosci.blogspot.com blasted both Mr. Rancatore and his backers.
... “Honestly,” another wrote, “I think it’s a slap in the face to everyone who has been a loyal customer to take their money for taxes, ‘lose’ this money and then ask for donations to get them out of a mess they caused themselves with bad management.”
It has been a while since I was in Boston, and I've never been to Tosci's. An ice cream shop with a flavor called "burnt caramel" is definitely worth visiting the next time I'm in Beantown.