We were told Paciugo was doing some special things for its anniversary. So we sent Taylor Walker, one of our fearless interns, to dig around the gelato giant. Read on to see what she found.
As I sat in my car outside the Paciugo Gelato corporate headquarters waiting for my digital clock to read 10:20 (I had wildly overestimated my morning commute), I applied some Burt’s Bees, went over my interview questions, and made a wish on a rogue eyelash. Prepped and ready, I entered the building where a perky and animated Cristiana Ginatta, co-owner and founder of Paciugo, greeted me. After handing me a hairnet (if only I were kidding), she guided me into the gloriously scented kitchen and began to discuss her family history.
Growing up in northern Italy, Ginatta adopted a love of gelato from her grandfather who ran a “neighborhood cafeteria,” Bar Acerbi, in Lodi. It was from him that she mastered her first six flavors: chocolate, hazelnut, lemon and strawberry sorbets, coffee, and fiordilatte (a vanilla-ish flavor), which sparked a passion that would eventually leap the Atlantic Ocean. After attending school in Italy and meeting her husband and fellow co-owner, Ugo, she moved to Dallas in April of 2000. By September, the first Paciugo opened its doors on Lovers Lane.
And before you ask, no, opening a gelateria in five months is not an easy task. There was a scouting trip in February to find a potential storefront, meetings with attorneys to acquire E-2 visas, and the constant battle of convincing a landlord that a couple with no credit history who could barely speak English (well, Ugo could but with a heavy Italian accent) would make a successful business out of gelato. Even after they found a willing landlord, the obstacles kept piling up. The rent was expensive, the parking was limited, and a truck strike in Italy delayed the arrival of their equipment. However on September 9, they were ready for business.
Although her recipe book had expanded to around 80 flavors, Ginatta jokingly admits how bewildered she felt when some of her initial customers would come in asking for Rocky Road or pumpkin pie flavors. But it’s due to this inspiration from customers that Ginatta’s creativity and innovation have flourished.
Now with 44 stores nationwide, a handful in Mexico, and a few more on their way (Mall of America, get pumped), Ginatta continues to expand her sweet repertoire, which totals about 330 flavors. In fact, she’s currently trying to master a new flavor, spicy avocado, which will eventually be paired with tortilla chips. Being the fearless intern that I am, I tried this frozen treat and can firmly say that it tastes remarkably like avocadoes.
Beyond testing new flavors, the Paciugo factory is in full swing preparing for the chain’s 10th anniversary. This month visitors can expect the following celebratory events:
- At the beginning of the month, Paciugo launched its Passaporto campaign, in which willing customers are given a mock passport and charged with the task of accomplishing 12 activities in order to receive a free medio Paciugo pack, which contains four flavors of gelato and generally serves up to 10 people. After completing an activity, which ranges from busting a move on your way to the cashier to wearing mismatched socks, guests will receive a stamp and be one step closer to the desired complimentary pack.
- On September 30, as a way to thank their customers for the past 10 years, Paciugo will be announcing National Gelato Day. (Though not an official holiday, Ginatta is hopeful it will one day become one. She says Ronald Reagan was able to establish July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday in July as National Ice Cream Day. So why not National Gelato Day?) On this groundbreaking day, guests will be treated to one free scoop of two signature flavors: Amarena Black Cherry Swirl or Mediterranean Sea Salt Caramel.
So grab a spoon and your mismatched socks and head over to any of the 16 North Texas locations. I’ll see you there. –Taylor Walker