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artisanal ice cream (gelato)

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has anyone been to The Penguin up on Lawrence? It's on the south side of the street, between Rockwell and the river (more specifically, between Washtenaw and Virginia). It's billed as "Agentine Artisanal Gelato", although it's not really like any Italian gelato I've ever had.

Does anyone know anything about this Argentine-style "gelato"? It's rich and has kind of a soft gooey texture. Does it contain eggs?

The fruit flavors are very intense and refreshing - my current favorite is grapefruit. banana's good, too. The creamy flavors are so rich and sweet, I can't even finish a small size. Dulce de leche, sabayon and nevado are all amazing. (As you can tell, I'm working my way through the menu!) The only flavor I haven't liked so far is cherries and cream.

This stuff is great and the portions are huge. I think the owners are always really happy to see anyone come in there, because I suspect they don't get much foot-traffic. It's in a weird location. Check it out if you happen to be in Lincoln Square. It would be a real tragedy if this place went out of business. They serve pizza, too, but I haven't tried it - if anyone here has, let me know how it is!

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  1. I noticed this place a couple months ago and made a mental note to come back and check it out but had forgotten about it. thanks for the reminder.

    I'm glad that you have started working your way through the choices. Keep reporting back.

    I will definitely try to throw some business their way.

    3 Replies
    1. re: zim

      i live in lincoln square and i ordered a delivery of pizza and dulce de leche from the penguin, based on a satisfactory trip there a week earlier for a lemon ice, which was heavenly.
      well, i quickly became disillusioned with the place. the pizza was absolutely horrible, it was akin to a frozen pizza but completley burnt on the bottom, i threw it out as it was inedible. i didn't like the dulce de leche either, it was grainy and thick and had a weird aftertaste...i also threw it away. not good. however, they had included a mini carton of the grapefruit for free...that was pretty good. all in all, i was very disappointed. i won't go back.

      1. re: rhiannon

        oh well, to each his or her own! I really liked the dulce de leche and so did a half dozen or so other people I know who have tried it. the lemon and grapefruit are brilliantly refreshing on a hot evening - you wouldn't go back for that?

        anyway, thanks for the warning on the pizza - I'll pass on it.

        1. re: sc

          Finally got to the Penguin this weekend: Wow -- What a great place.

          I have to say I liked the Dulce de Leche alot: much more complicated than the Haagen Dasz, with a rich almost burnt taste. Really good. We also liked the White Chocolate and the lemon. Peach was less good: as I should've guessed, there aren't really good fresh peaches around chicago, so they seemed to use canned, and i though the pineapple suffered from the same problem. But, definitely a good place: I plan to do my part to keep them in business: i'm think several 8 buck take-away tubs a month.

          We were especially charmed by the argentine woman serving up the ice cream:

          Her [charming Argentine accent]: Tell me what you want!
          Me: Can I have a taste of
          Her: Yes!
          Me: of..
          Her: Yes! Anything you like!
          My Friend: You're wonderful, I have two questions: Are you married?
          Her: Yes! No! I'm pregnant!
          Us: Hooray! Congratulations!
          [the sound of intense ice cream induced pleasure]

          Re: Cambodian. The building with Khmer script just west of Penguin is the Cambodian Association, where I tutored a cambodian man for a while. I asked his daughter about restaurants, and she didn't really know of any, but did recommend a cambodian grocery store in the same neighborhood. I'll try to get some more info.

    2. a
      Adam Stephanides

      I don't know anything about Argentinian ice cream in general, but this was some of the best ice cream I've ever had. The nevado was very good, but I preferred the almond cream, which came with sugared whole almonds mixed in.

      They have posters on one wall showing the ingredients for some of their flavors, and if I remember aright they do include eggs.

      The stretch of Lawrence west of the Penguin, incidentally (I didn't explore east), is an interesting mix of Spanish and Korean stores, with a little Middle Eastern, Chinese and even Cambodian thrown in. I didn't see any Cambodian restaurants, unfortunately, though there was what appeared to be a tofu store with window signs in what apparently was Khmer (a Cambodian organization further west had signs in what looked like the same alphabet).

      2 Replies
      1. re: Adam Stephanides

        speaking of which - anyone know of any Cambodian restaurants? I had Cambodian food once as a child (not on Chicago) and remeber it to be delicious.

        I love the diversity of this neighborhood! I could even get live poultry if I wanted to. The nieghborhood grocery stores seem to do a good job of accomodating the wide variety of ethinicities here.

        1. re: sc

          I went to The Penguin on Saturday and liked it a lot.

          I had just been to Hot Doug’s for a thuringer (top-notch) and an experimental batch of duck fat french fries (he’s still trying to perfect them but they tasted pretty close to me). Great place.

          At The Penguin I had a mix of strawberry and grapefruit gelato. The strawberry was very intense and quite sweet while the grapefruit was much more restrained. Both had that unusual, slightly sticky texture that some people might not enjoy. I liked them both, especially the grapefruit, and will certainly return. Thanks for the tip.

          I’m not aware of any Cambodian restaurants but there is a Laotian place on Argyle. They have a large menu, mostly Vietnamese, with a sizeable Laotian section. I used to frequent it several years ago and thought they could do no wrong but was a little disappointed on my last visit (over a year ago). Has anyone been recently?

          Nhu Hoa
          1020 W Argyle Av
          Chicago
          773-878-0618

      2. I went twice this weekend to the penguin, and am now a confirmed fan. The ice cream is dense, more filling and tastes more like the natural ingredients than almost all the ice-cream I have had in the city (My other personal favorite being at massa near johnnies in elmwood park)

        This was evident in the nevado (chocolate chip) which tasted more like actual cream than any other I have tried but supremely so in the fruit flavors.

        These are in texture somewhere between sorbet and your run of the mill ice-cream, but the freshness was outstanding. The peach had the gritty taste and texture of the actual fruit. My favorite which I couldn't resist ordering two nights in a row was the pineapple with very nice shards of fruit in it.

        dulce de leche was ok but not any huge improvement over haagen-dazs. grapefruit was also tasty.

        Now, If I can just persuade them to make coconut.