I’ve always been a big fan of supporting local dallas companies, especially when they are a talkable brand. I had the pleasure of meeting Cristiana Ginatta, co-founder of Paciugo Gelato and Caffe, at the Taste of the NFL a few weeks ago. It was there I discovered they were launching four new flavors of gelato in May, including one with bacon. Of course, it’s not every day you meet the co-founder of a successful business with 43 locations. I asked to interview her and learn more about the motivation behind Paciugo and the four new flavors.
Now my wife and kids are also big fans of Paciugo and our first experience was at the location on the corner of Preston and Park in Plano, TX. Not only is the gelato lower in fat than traditional ice cream, but the focus on quality ingredients and freshness has a big impact on flavor and texture.
Recipe for success is based on three principles
Paciugo is pronounced “pah-CHOO-go”. It’s interesting to note how Cristiana came to create Paciugo with her husband Ugo. Cristiana’s grandfather owned a local shop in Italy which featured six homemade flavors of gelato. It was her experience growing up that prompted her to apprentice at a Gelaterie in Italy. She then met Ugo who had always wanted to bring the flavors of Italy to the US. In fact, many of the recipes are fourth generation. What came through in my discussion with Cristiana was not only her passion for excellence but also three underlying principles for making delightful gelato.
There is a heavy focus on balancing ingredients to insure one doesn’t over power the other in a specific recipe. For example, if a flavor has too much sugar, it could leave you feeling thirsty.
With several full-time buyers on staff there is an intense process to secure the highest quality ingredients with the most flavor. All of the recipes use real fruit vs. concentrate and she shared the example of leveraging Texas peaches for their unique flavor.
Since all flavors are prepared each day before guests arrive, the company performs extensive research and testing to ensure a predictable experience in each franchise. One example is the machine used to make the gelato. This machine can freeze and prepare the gelato in 6-7 minutes insuring the ice crystals don’t get too large. The result is a much smoother texture compared to ice cream which can sometimes have a harder texture.
As I was listening to Cristiana describe the motivation behind the four new flavors, I realized I wouldn’t do them justice so I chose to feature her words below for three of the four flavors. Note, I tasted the Durian flavor and it’s definitely an acquired taste.
It’s also important to note that many of these flavors were the result of collaboration with celebrity chef and host of the hit show Glutten for Punishment, Bob Blumer. The show airs on the Food Network. Their goal was to develop a collection of flavors for the popular 2009 Austin Ice Cream Festival. The successful teamwork inspired Cristiana to roll-out the flavors as gelato in all Paciugo locations.
- Chocolate Chipotle Butter Pecan
“I was going for Texan inspired flavor. Pecans are delicious and Texas is the second US producer (behind Georgia). Tex Mex is also easily associated with Texas and I love chipotle peppers, ripe jalapenos that have been sun-dried and then smoked. The resulting gelato has a smooth texture and intense chocolate flavor from the extra brute cocoa powder we use (with high cocoa butter content, that gives us a great mouth feel). The smoothness of the gelato is counterbalanced by the crunchy toasted, buttered pecans. Then you taste the smokiness and final heath of the chipotle pepper.”
- Roasted Banana Cashew Heath Crunch
“I was going for a twist on a classic ice-cream flavor. Banana and heath bars are very commonly used in ice-cream recipes. Our banana is roasted in the oven with brown sugar, developing a more intense aroma and more complex notes than raw banana. Then toasted and salty cashews are added to the heath crunch for a contrast of buttery mouth feel and saltiness. ”
- Organic Maple Caramelized Bacon
“The judges at the competition came from all sort of back-grounds and culinary preferences. There were children, chefs and restaurateurs, moms and dads, a famous hair-dresser, a teacher and some real estate agents. I was trying to create a recipe that could be popular and evocate good feelings for all these different people and ages. I thought Sunday brunch with the family creates happy and warm feelings for everybody and the image of the last bite of crunchy bacon used to clean up the plate with some maple drizzle came to my mind. The gelato is made with Grade B organic maple syrup and a touch of salt. Salt and sweet, like bacon and maple. I chose Grade B maple because it’s from the sap produced by the plant toward the end of the season, it’s darker and with more intense flavor and I needed the intensity to “stand up” when blended with milk. The bacon is first cooked until crisp and crunchy and then caramelized with the same maple and some sugar. By cooking the bacon until crisp, we keep the pleasant, smoky notes of the bacon, and loose the “porkyness” and less desirable taste of cold, greasy bacon. By caramelizing the crisp bacon, we maintain the crunchiness of each bite, even once it’s mixed with the gelato”
As I stated, there is now way I could have captured her words as elegantly as she did above. I had the fortune of tasting all four of the new flavors and I have to say the Banana and Bacon inspired flavors were two of my favorites.
Reputation Before Profit
The Paciugo motto is “Ante Lucrum Nomen” which stands for Reputation Before Profit. After touring the facility and hearing the commitment to quality and flavor, I’m confident their reputation will only help them continue to grow. It’s also the unwavering passion that will carry them through any challenges.
I am excited that Paciugo will also cater our May 20th, 2010 Social Media Club of Dallas event. This will ensure many more folks will have the opportunity to taste these new flavors.