It’s a poorly kept secret that Pope Francis has a sweet tooth, with a particular weakness when it comes to ice cream.

So it shouldn’t have been surprising that the “cold-call pontiff” was at it again this week, to thank an ice cream shop for the gift of several pounds of Italian gelato.

This time, the papal gesture went to the owner of a historic gelateria called Mario Magrini, in Roseto degli Abruzzi, a town of the province of Teramo in the Abruzzo region of central Italy.

The shop turns 100 next year, and the call originated as a “thank you.” Earlier this summer, Maria Grazia Magrini, the owner, sent Pope Francis a “brick” of the store’s three favorite crowd pleasers: Coffee, vanilla and cream. During the 15-minute phone call, the Argentine pontiff allegedly expressed his preference for the first.

The package was accompanied by a note saying: “As we pray for you, you pray for us.”

Mario Magrini staff. (Photo courtesy Mario Magrini Facebook)

Francis’s love for ice cream is well documented.

In fact, during the flight back from his 2015 visit to the Philippines, Philippine Airlines changed out most of its alcohol supply to store 300 packs of single serve ice cream, much to the consternation of many of the journalists on board. Single servings of Malted Milk Flavor and Brown Butter Almond Brittle were topped with 20 packs of pistachio ice cream that were provided as a freebie by Paco Magsaysay.

Yet for most Argentines living abroad, there is nothing like the flavor known as Dulce de Leche (sweet milk) to bring back memories of home. It’s a flavor hard to find in Rome, but there’s one shop within walking distance from the Vatican that has it, adequately sprinkle with chocolate bits. Padrón Geletaria produces it with Dulce De Leche flown from Argentina, to replace the caramel-based paste used by the handful of Italian ice cream shops that attempt the flavor.

In 2018, Sebastian Padrón sent six pounds of ice cream to Santa Marta, the residence where Francis lives. Soon after, he received a hand-written note, a papal blessing and a medal. His shop became so famous among Francis’s Argentine friends that, whenever one goes to visit him to the Vatican, they bring a few pounds of gelato as a gift.

But Pope Francis not only receives ice cream as a gift: He also gives it away. On April 23, 2018 — for example — he gave 3,000 servings of ice cream to Rome’s homeless on the Feast of St. George, the “name day” of Jorge Mario Bergoglio.