Panera: the Genoa coffee gelato (ops, semifreddo!)

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Just spend a couple of days in Genoa to discover that here there is an ice cream (oops! a semifreddo) unique in the world impossible to resist: Panera!

The name “Panera” comes from the contraction of the words “panna” (cream) and “nera” (black) because Panera is actually a coffee-stained whipped cream. And indeed the taste is just that: of latte macchiato, something less than cappuccino.

panera_ Genoa_coffee_ gelato

Be careful, it’s not a coffee ice cream!

It’s light, fluffy. The real, traditional one, which is sold in the best ice cream shops in the city, has no eggs inside. Just whipped cream, coffee and sugar.

Today the recipe is also listed at the Ministry of Agriculture as a typical product of Liguria (although produced only in Genoa).

It has the same taste everywhere then. Wrong! Every gelato shop has its own recipe (secret) and the result I swear is always different.

Some place make it more full-bodied, some more sweetened, some with a more intense taste of coffee. In short, each gelateria is a different experience. For this reason I suggest to the most greedy in a summer afternoon to take a “Panera tour” to discover the one they like best.

Cremeria Buonafede _where to eat gelato in Genoa

I already have clear ideas: my favorite is that of Cremeria Buonafede, in Via Luccoli, the heart of the historic center of Genoa. It is a historic Genoese workshop (dating back to 1913  ) that of the real Panera – whose recipe is handed down from 4 generations – has made its flagship

The history of Panera

The origins of Panera seem to date back to the early 19th century. It is said, between myth and legend, that it was born by chance: a careless waiter stumbling poured some coffee on a cup of whipped cream, and from then the brilliant invention was born.

Traces of the famous cream and coffee semifreddo can already be found in the ancient cookbook “La Vera Cuciniera Genovese”  by Emanuele Rossi published in 1862.

Moreover, some argue that the invention of the “black cream” is attributable to the ice cream shop ” Gelateria Amedeo” in Boccadasse, which would have invented it in 1927 and from there this semifreddo would have spread in the other Genoese ice cream shop.

While the local sweets producer Preti says that it was the genius of its founder, Giovanni Preti- when the sweets factory was still only a renowned pastry shop in the center of the – to invent the “Gelato alla Panera”.

As it happens with all recipes that become traditional dishes, we will never know the truth!

panera Genoa coffee gelato

Recipe for making Panera at home.

If you own an ice cream maker,  you can recreate at home  Panera semifreddo like the one you can find in Genoese ice cream parlors. This is the recipe a friend kindly gave me:


  • 1 litre of fresh cream to be whipped
  • 2 two cups of strong coffee
  • 2 ounces of sugar


Pour the cream in a saucepan and add the coffee. When it starts to boil add the sugar and let it melt stirring. Remove from the fire.

When the mixture is cold pour it into the ice cream maker and proceed as usual to make ice cream.

Once ready, pour the mixture into a sorbet and let it cool to obtain a semifreddo with a creamy consistency.

panera genovese

If you don’t have an ice cream maker at home, like me, don’t despair! I have a recipe to prepare a coffee semifreddo that, although not strictly adherent to tradition because it involves the use of eggs, is incredibly good and the result from the point of view of taste is very close to that of the real Genoese Panera.

It’s the recipe inherited from Margherita, the mother of my best friend during elementary school. I spent whole afternoons at their house and in the freezer a tile of Panera for snack was never missing. I remember that we always ate it sitting on the kitchen table (never on the chairs) because this made us feel older. Margherita also put a handful of chopped walnut kernels in her Panera. Yes, I know, they are not traditional, it is a culinary license, but it is a perfect addition because it gives crunchiness and that thrill of the unexpected in your mouth!

It’s a recipe that brings with it many carefree memories and I’m really happy to share it here.

panera_ Genoa traditional coffee semifreddo
panera_traditional Ligurian gelato
panera_Italian Riviera traditional coffee gelato
Where to taste Panera in Genoa

Which are the ice cream shops where to eat the real Genoese Panera? Here is my personal selection:

Buon appetito!


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Ciao! I’m Enrica

a home cook, food researcher and experience curator born and bred in Liguria.
I study, tell, cook, share and teach Ligurian cuisine and the culture surrounding it.
Here we celebrate Liguria’s gastronomic diversity and richness through its recipes, producers, traditions and shops.

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