My gelato vigil is over! Paciugo is scheduled to officially open its second Chicago location on Tuesday, July 27, in the Fountain View building (2326 W. Giddings St). Yesterday I stopped by for free samples and chatted with owner Ani Poddar and manager Marlena Irizarry. Free samples (for everyone) continue this afternoon.
Poddar seemed as excited as I was about the opening. “Things have gone smoothly, but we wanted to take enough time to make sure everything [is] perfect. We can’t wait to start putting smiles on the faces of people in Lincoln Square. This is a different demographic compared to our Lakeview location, but the people here have the same sense of great taste.”
Paciugo gelato is made in four base formats: milk-based (no cream, butter, or margarine), water-based sorbet (fat free and dairy free), soy-based, and no sugar added. The gelateria can make 300 different flavors but will offer 30-35 each day, ranging from traditional to outlandish (but still delicious). During the sampling session on Sunday, flavors included peach and passion fruit sorbets, chocolate hazelnut, salted caramel, panna cotta, rose sangria, and organic maple with caramelized bacon.
By using high-quality ingredients but no artificial flavoring or preservatives, and producing everything on-site, the gelato at Paciugo ranks in the upper echelon of frozen treats. Tasting the peach sorbet is like eating the freshest fruit at the height of ripeness, and the richness of the dulce de leche belies the fact that it has 70 percent fewer calories than regular ice cream.
“There’s gelato, and then there’s Paciugo, which is the best gelato,” Poddar said as he handed colorful spoonfuls over the long glass case. He explained how his life’s trajectory changed one cold winter’s night in Madison when he stumbled across another Paciugo location. After tasting the caffé’s gelato flavored with black pepper and olive oil, he decided to steer away from a career in engineering to become a Paciugo evangelist.
Irizarry, who also manages the Lakeview location, is equally proud of the gelato but in a more reserved way.
“This is a great neighborhood. I really like the people here and we are very excited to open this week and see everyone,” she said.
Prices start at $3.50 for up to three flavors in a cup, and there is indoor seating for approximately 30 people. The interior is a mix of bright white and cool blues with an emphasis on refined finishes. Coffee drinks and gelato shakes, such as Frappé and Affogato, are also on tap, and during the winter months the caffé will offer gourmet hot chocolates and pastries.
Poddar said the daily hours are from noon to 9 p.m. and that he’ll be putting the finishing touches on a children’s play area soon.