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FRÍO Gelato, an Evanston-based gelato business, opened their first shop on Dempster Street four years ago, where it operated seasonally, closing for winter. Last month it moved just two doors west to the corner of Chicago Avenue and Dempster Street – and will now remain open throughout the year. Owners Sebastián Koziura and Karla Tennies Koziura said that they are enjoying the adventure of bringing authentic Argentine gelato to Chicagoland.
While the husband and wife team had not run a food-related business before launching FRÍO Gelato, they have run a remodeling and real estate business, Koziura Homes, for years in Evanston. Asked what made them decide to start FRÍO Gelato, Ms. Tennies Koziura said that there were two things. First was Mr. Koziura’s longing for the taste of Argentine gelato and the community he remembers from the Argentine gelato shops, “gelaterías” in Spanish. Second was the year and a half they spent sailing across the Atlantic Ocean and back with their children, then 8 and 6 years old.
“When the [real estate] market took a downturn . . . we decided to go sailing for a year and a half,” Ms. Tennies Koziura said. “We ended up living on a sailboat, crossing the Atlantic. We went to 21 countries – it was an amazing experience. . . Had we not taken that trip, I’m not sure that we would have gone through with FRÍO Gelato. We were brimming with new-found energy and confidence.”
Mr. Koziura said that many of FRÍO Gelato’s flavors are the ones you’d only find in Argentina, flavors like Malbec con Frutos Rojos (Malbec wine with berries), Mascarpone con Frambuesa (Mascarpone cheese and raspberry) Sambayón (egg custard with Marsala wine), and Tramontana (vanilla bean with milk caramel and chocolate chips). Ms. Tennies Koziura said that people sometimes come in and ask for typical Italian or American gelato that they do not serve, which prompts the FRÍO Gelato team to explain what is unique about Argentine gelato.
In Argentina, a tall swirl of hand-scooped gelato is generally served in a “cucurucho,” a type of Argentine waffle cone. Mr. Koziura laughed as he said that his grandmother used to take him and his cousins for cucuruchos, using them as her excuse to have one too. “She always got the exact same thing – a cucurucho with dulce de leche on the bottom and strawberry on top. If they didn’t put the gelato flavors in that order, she’d send it back.”
Last spring, when they opened another shop in Chicago, they selected the location with care. Ms.Tennies Koziura said, “It’s not a gelato place that you can pick up and put anywhere. That’s why we went to Southport, near the Argentine restaurant, Tango Sur.” She said that opening the shop on that block was an obvious choice because it includes not only Tango Sur, but also El Mercado Food Mart, and 5411 Empanadas, an empanada shop – and because of all the families in the neighborhood.
Apart from their two shops, FRÍO Gelato sells its gelato to Evanston and Chicago restaurants and cafés. In Evanston, these include Campagnola, Chef’s Station, Kinship, Stained Glass, Union and Backlot Coffee.
However, Mr. Koziura said that despite how pleased they are about their success over the last four years, they want to grow their business carefully. “The idea with this is not that we grow super-fast. Let’s say we could open 100 stores tomorrow – we won’t do it.” He said that they do not ever want to compromise on quality, including on the premium ingredients they use.
Ms.Tennies Koziura said, “Many gelato companies will get a pre-made base, add powdered flavorings, mix it together in a machine . . . We actually pasteurize and make our own base from scratch, and that takes like 24 hours to marinate, and then the following day you can use it for your gelato. That’s when you add coffee beans, vanilla beans, fresh fruit. I think you really can taste the difference.”