WICKER PARK — Here's the scoop: Friday marks the beginning of gelato season, and Vince Geraci is prepared for it.
The 22-year-old, second-generation business owner was barely a teenager when his parents opened Caffe Gelato at 2034 W. Division St. in Wicker Park almost 10 years ago. Now he's ready to take the reins and bring in plenty of new changes when the seasonal business specializing in the Italian version of ice cream reopens Friday.
Traditionally Caffe Gelato closes Oct. 31 after giving out free scoops of gelato to trick-or-treaters on Halloween and reopens March 1. Now, though, Geraci said that he's planning to keep the caffe open year-round, as well as open at 7 a.m. on weekdays instead of 10 a.m.
In addition to 18 flavors of gelato, the caffe offers fresh-roasted coffee and espresso using beans from a half dozen small farmers.
"Wicker Park has a lot of espresso lovers, we want to be open early for them," Geraci said.
Another addition to the caffe's menu will be sandwiches, including with ham and cheese on a pretzel bun and roast beef on a French roll, for instance.
Combination specials with a sandwich, scoop of gelato and a drink are expected to be under $10 and individual sandwiches will be $6.
Also new this season are seven varieties of fresh fruit juice smoothies, Geraci said.
The decision to add smoothies has personal roots: Geraci lost 30 pounds over the winter by drinking smoothies he concocted with kale, spinach, berries and a bit of banana for sweetness.
"I'm so passionate about food, and found a way to make it my friend instead of enemy," he said.
Though the juice smoothies will not be available for another few weeks, what will be in plentiful supply at the get-go is gelato, which Geraci said has half the fat and calories as ice cream and doesn't contain preservatives and stabilizers.
Using fresh fruit and less butterfat than ice cream, the caffe's gelato is churned on site daily, with flavors such as hazelnut, pistachio, vanilla, espresso, strawberry, banana and cantaloupe among the most popular, Geraci said.
A four-ounce cup with two scoops of gelato is $3.99; a six ounce, three scoop cup is $4.99.
Dominick Geraci, 60, said he "couldn't be prouder" that his son has taken full control and ownership of the business.
He referred to Caffe Gelato as "an extension of my childhood memories in Italy," and said even though his son might seem young at 22, he's been involved with gelato shop since his early years.
"He loves the business and is very committed to it. I couldn't be prouder to pass the baton to him," he said.
Caffe Gelato's new hours will be 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekends. Phone 773-227-7333.