WEST TOWN — A gelato shop offering classic and unique flavors has opened in West Town.
Paulo Gelato and Chocolate, 1058 W. Chicago Ave., is owned and operated by Pawel Petrykowski, who moved to Chicago in 2019 after spending more than a decade making gelato in his native country, Poland.
The shops offers staples, including fior di latte and strawberry, along with more experimental creations, including a milk chocolate with porcini mushrooms and a vegan sorbet made with spinach and tangerine.
Petrykowski makes all the gelato in-house, with an emphasis on natural fruits and other ingredients, including his own chocolate brand. He even makes his own pistachio paste to serve as a base for Paulo’s pistachio gelato.
“I bought pistachios, I roast the pistachios, I ground the pistachios, and then I have a machine, like a blender taking like six hours, and then I have paste, which I can use,” he said. “All the fruit flavors, we are using only fruits. We don’t use any colors; [it’s] all natural flavors.”
The Chicago Avenue store is the culmination of years of honing Petrykowski’s craft, mostly in Poland, he said.
Petrykowski started making gelato at a summer job after high school, which he thought would just be temporary. But he quickly fell in love with the work, especially experimenting with ingredients and flavors.
“Creating something new, to discover something new, this is the best part, which I like about gelato,” Petrykowski said. “To create something new, to challenge myself.”
As Petrykowski worked his way up in the industry, he entered into an annual competition for the best gelato in Poland. He came close to winning for several years, then he claimed top prize in 2015 while working as a consultant for a different gelato company.
It was the push Petrykowski needed to finally go into business for himself.
“I always had in my mind that I want to have my own shop. And when I won I said, ‘If not now, then when?’ It’s a good moment to open. And in 2015, I decided to open the first shop,” Petrykowski said.
Over the next three years, Petrykowski expanded rapidly. He owns two gelato shops in Poland and has franchised another five under the Paulo brand.
In 2019, Petrykowski’s wife, Manoela, got a job in Chicago and had to relocate. He joined her, hoping to open a shop in the city. COVID-19 delayed those plans, and Petrykowski continued to travel back and forth to Poland to manage his businesses.
This February, Petrykowski found the location on Chicago Avenue, which was formerly home to gelato and crepe shop Gelato Greco.
Petrykowski renovated the store and brought in new equipment. It fits just a few seats inside, but it features an outdoor patio. Petrykowski also sells coffee and hot chocolate, and he recently started offering homemade lemonade. He hopes to make his own chocolates and candies once the business gets off the ground.
Until then, Petrykowski’s focus remains on gelato. Petrykowski said he’s inspired by the commitment to the craft he’s seen among gelato makers in small towns and villages across Europe.
“When I went deeper and deeper and started meeting different people with different points of view, I said, basically, you can do whatever you want,” he said. “When I’m creating the flavors, it’s always in my head, like this is not only to sell, it’s also to give an experience.”
Paulo Gelato is open 1-9:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m. weekends.
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