Boston's Ice Cream Brothers

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Toscanini's has been open since 1981. Shortly after the store opened, my brother Joe came from St. Louis to help launch the business. After a year or two it became clear that working together jeopardized our relationship as brothers, and he opened Rancatore's in Belmont. Rancatore's opened a second successful store in Lexington Center and his busy first store on Belmont Street moved into Belmont Center. We are located in Cambridge's Central Square; perhaps we agree about the importance of location.

Each store makes enough ice cream to employ a herd of genetically modified cows, crazy fat on bovine growth hormone.

I met a woman once who was surprised to hear that the owners of the two stores are related, and probably without thinking she asked if we "shared a cow." We share many things, but each store makes enough ice cream to employ a herd of genetically modified cows, crazy fat on bovine growth hormone. It was a cute question, suggesting that perhaps we also had a vanilla cow and a chocolate cow. Maybe even a Burnt Caramel cow.

When I recounted this to a friend, she said her classmates at art school know we are brothers and had heard we hate each other. She laughed and said she didn't think this was true. Every Saturday we meet for a very noisy breakfast here in Central Square. Our youngest sister cooks everything, but the homemade cookies are baked in South Boston by our oldest sister. My father, doing his best Burt Lancaster imitation from The Leopard, reigns over all factions.

We do avoid discussing ice cream recipes. We will discuss the comparative popularity of flavors but not the specifics of recipes. Not, I think, because either of us believes we possess any great secrets but because these disagreements about pounds of chocolate and cups of vanilla extract were the final precipitating disputes that convinced us to quit arguing about aspects of the ice cream business. At times we have keys to each other's stores. A few people have worked at both companies. Some of the flavors are similar, and a few names are identical. Tomorrow my brother and my youngest sister and I will travel to Patriot Stadium to attend a conference on "green" foodservice products. The oldest sister will not come because she will be working at Harvard and thinking about cookies for the loud Saturday breakfast.

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Gus Rancatore is the co-founder of Toscanini, the Cambridge-based shop that The New York Times said makes "the best ice cream in the world." Learn more at www.tosci.com.

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