GLADSTONE PARK — A longtime Sicilian bakery has opened another outpost — 5,000 miles away, on the Far Northwest Side.
New Paradise Bakery, 5742 N. Milwaukee Ave., is a gelateria, bakery and deli led by owner and chef Vito Rubino, whose parents are from Palermo, Italy. After running a pizzeria in Logan Square, he formed a partnership with the New Paradise Bakery owner in Palermo and wanted to bring its Italian delicacies to the United States.
Chicago’s New Paradise opened in March.
“It’s been a dream of mine and my father’s to incorporate the U.S. with Italy, so this was the perfect opportunity,” said Rubino, who was born and raised in Chicago.
The bakery sells dozens of Sicilian pastries, cakes and savory snacks made from scratch every day, including arancini, cannoli, sfogliatelle, almond cookies, a brioche stuffed with gelato and more. The shop imports its cannoli shells, ricotta cream made from sheep’s milk and pistachio products from Sicily, and they use fresh, local ingredients and no sweet substitutes, Rubino said.
The shop sells about 12 flavors of gelato — though it’s a mere fraction of what the Palermo store offers: 150.
But growth starts small. For now, New Paradise Bakery is excelling in offering traditional Sicilian products, and it’s been bringing in Italian Americans from as far as Wisconsin and Indiana, Rubino said.
“The bakery is so popular in Palmero that people from Palermo were calling their relatives here in Chicago and telling them that New Paradise was opening here,” he said.
At least once a week, a family drives from Milwaukee to order from the shop, Rubino said. On weekends, the bakery’s four tables are filled with people with various Italian accents enjoying the pastries.
“Ninety percent of the people in here are speaking in Italian. … This table is from Milano, that table is from Roma, that table is from Palermo, and they all just meet up here. … There are people eating the brioche, then a cannoli and they have their espresso,” Rubino said. “And then somebody will walk in and order a cappuccino and everyone will look at them like, ‘It’s 9 p.m. at night.’ … It definitely feels like Italy at times.”
While business now feels steady, the bakery is recuperating financially from the pandemic. Rubino bought the building — which used to be the Gladstone Park Bakery — in 2019, and the opening was stalled by renovations and pandemic restrictions.
The space’s former life as a bakery was a good fit for the shop, with plenty of production space and an open seating area, Rubino said. He moved his family from Logan Square and hired people from the community to keep it local and boost the neighborhood economy.
“I want to be a piece of Palmero to Chicago [and] the United States,” he said.
With the help of the New Paradise Bakery chef in Italy — who routinely flies in to visit the shop — Rubino and others bake the sweets alongside an iPad to make sure the recipes are followed to perfection.
Nancy Stanis, of Edgebrook, is a regular at New Paradise Bakery and said the products are high quality and better than chain bakeries and coffee shops.
“I was going to Starbucks every day [before]. … To me, it’s wonderful to have options again, like the Greek bakery and here for the Italian goods,” Stanis said.
As ingredients rotate because of the seasons, New Paradise Bakery plans to launch variations to the arancini, or fried rice balls, to include sweet kinds with sweet rice, chocolate and pistachio flavors.
Also new to the menu are cannoli flavors such as strawberry, coffee, chocolate and “paradiso,” a cannolo dipped in pistachio chocolate cream and rolled in pistachio flour and crumbles.
“A lot of these products will take you back [to Italy], like the gelato brioche,” Rubino said. “I’ve actually seen people cry when they eat the brioche.”
New Paradise Bakery is open 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays.
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