Paciugo Gelato & Caffè Puts Out the Pumpkin

A round of cupcake roulette, wherein a pill of cyanide is hidden in one of a dozen cupcakes, is preferable to clothes shopping, doubly so when the shopping is for a wedding, and I'm sent out on a solo mission to "Find the perfect tie. But not too perfect; that's expensive." The aromatic typhoon in the department store's first-floor cosmetic department induces vertigo. That, in turn, leads to hyperventilation. And sweat. Much sweat. And the search for an escape route.

The route usually includes a stop for a beer, if there is a good bar nearby. But not that day. That day I was in such a panic, that before I realized where I was, I was in the NorthPark Center's food court, specifically in front of the Paciugo Gelato & Caffè stand in need of a refreshing treat to halt my twitching.

Cristiana Ginatta, husband Ugo and son Vincenzo, after leaving their hometown of Turin, Italy, opened the first Paciugo store on Lovers Lane in 2000. They now have more than 20 locations nationwide and three stores in Mexico offering milk-based (Tuscan style) and water-based (Sicilian style) Italian ice cream, gelato. Three weeks ago, the company shipped out the base ingredient for their seasonal flavor, pumpkin pie. "What we get is similar to the canned pumpkin pie mixture shoppers get at the supermarket. It's real pumpkin that's been cooked down with spices like cinnamon. We then mix it with whole milk and freeze it before placing in the case," the employee at the stand told me.

The gelato was indeed refreshing. The pumpkin pie was creamy, as to be expected, with subtle hints of spice and the gourd's flavor, not overpowering like so many pumpkin concoctions. I paired it with some the traditional coffee-flavored gelato, which suppressed the pumpkin pie's flavor. Nevertheless, the gelato did the trick. The seasonal item calmed my nerves enough as to allow me to resume my search for the perfect, but not too perfect, tie.

As Hanna Raskin noted yesterday, pumpkin often gets short shrift as an ingredient, being relegated to the year-end holiday season. This is true of Paciugo's offering, as it's only available until Christmas. However, eaters can now add pumpkin pie gelato to pedestrian pumpkin pie and pumpkin bread to their holiday victual -- and shopping -- regimen.

Paciugo Gelato & Caffè NorthPark Center 8687 North Central Expressway, Suite 2404 214-692-0600 Multiple other locations

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