FULTON MARKET — J.P. Graziano’s latest “as Chicago as it gets” creation started with a dare.
“I got a text saying, ‘Are you doing giardiniera paczki?'” owner Jim Graziano said. “So me being me, I told him to give it a couple of days.”
Now, the legendary Italian sandwich shop will sell limited-edition giardiniera paczki on Fat Tuesday. Many Chicagoans celebrate the holiday by chowing down on paczki, which are Polish doughnuts — though they are usually made with a sweet filling and not the spicy seasoning.
The new “sweet with heat” paczki features dried hot giardiniera seasoning mixed with vanilla or chocolate custard filling, Graziano said. They’ll be sold first come, first served when J.P. Graziano Grocery, 901 W. Randolph St., opens 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Jim Graziano, the fourth-generation owner of the 85-year-old Italian food importing business turned sandwich shop, is known for zany collaborations with other staples of the Chicago zeitgeist, from streetwear designer Joe Freshgoods to The Wiener’s Circle.
“It’s about spreading the Chicago love,” Graziano said. Bringing together two distinctly Chicago foods — paczki and giardiniera — was “silly enough to run with,” he said.
To create the treat, Graziano hit up his longtime friend Enzo Ventrella, second-generation owner of sweet Italian bakery IL Giardino Del Dolce, 2859 N. Harlem Ave.
Ventrella gave it a shot with dozens of bottles of the dry seasoning mix.
“My first thought was ‘Is he serious?’ And my second thought was ‘This isn’t going to work,'” Ventrella said. “But Jimmy is a dear friend. And we’re a big Italian family. He can ask me to put his giardiniera on my cannoli and I’d do it.”
Ventrella heated the giardiniera seasoning, melted it and mixed it into his custards, “giving it some time to sit and absorb,” he said. The vanilla custard came out with a yellow tint — with specks of carrots and pickled vegetables.
The taste was “not too bad,” Ventrella said. “I could see people wanting this. There’s a whole movement of putting giardiniera on everything.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean they expect everyone to be a fan of the mixed-up treat.
“I’m almost scared to present it to a Polish person,” Ventrella said.
Graziano “sheepishly” sent his Polish friends an Eater article about the giardiniera paczki, “and they all loved it,” he said.
“I don’t know if we made the next great desert,” Graziano said. “But at the very least, we’re having fun.”
Graziano said he’s “not going to let people down” if they chose J.P. Graziano Grocery for Fat Tuesday.
“I wouldn’t sell it if it sucked,” he said. “You take a couple bites and the heat hits you on the backend.”
Listen to the Block Club Chicago podcast: