Neapolitan ice cream is ice cream made up of blocks of chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream side by side in the same container (typically with no packaging in between).
Neapolitan ice cream was named in the late 19th century as a reflection of its presumed origins in the cuisine of the Italian city of Naples, and the many Neapolitan immigrants who brought their expertise in frozen desserts with them to the United States. Spumoni was introduced to the United States in the 1870s as Neapolitan-style ice cream. Early recipes used a variety of flavors; however the number of three molded together was a common denominator. More than likely chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry became the standard for the reason that they were the most popular flavors in the United States at the time of introduction.
Quotes from food historians
"Cosmopolitan slice. A slice of ice-cream cake made with mousse mixture and ordinary ice cream, presented in a small pleated paper case. Cosmopolitan ice cream consists of three layers, each of a different colour and flavour (chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla), moulded into a block and cut into slices. Neapolitan ice-cream makers were famous in Paris at the beginning of the 19th century, especially Tortoni, creator of numerous ice-cream cakes."
"(18th century) confectioners's shops (were) very often run by Italians. Consequently ice creams were often called "Italian ice creams" or "Neapolitan ice creams" throughout the 19th century, and the purveying of such confections became associated with Italian immigrants."
"Neapolitan ice cream, different flavoured layers frozen together....[was] being first being talked about in the 1870s."
A cultural reference from The New York Times in 1887:"...in a dress of pink and white stripes, strongly resembling Neapolitan ice cream."
19th Century descriptions
1885 - "Neapolitan or Pinachee Cream Ice"
"You must have a Neapolitan box for this ice and fill it up in 3 or 4 layers with different coloured and flavoured ice creams (a water ice may be used with the custards); for instance, lemon, vanilla, chocolate, and pistachio. Mould in the patent ice cave for about 1½ to 2 hours, turn it out, cut it in slices, and arrange neatly on the dish, on a napkin or dish-paper."
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