I come by my sweet tooth honestly inheriting it directly from both sides of the family. My Swedish mother taught my sister and me that an afternoon cup of coffee was meaningless without a piece of chocolate or a warm, just out of the oven, cinnamon bun. Meanwhile, my father used to sing, “I scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream!” as the dinner plates were cleared and dessert was imminent. From him we also learned how to drown our pancakes in syrup (the extra sugary Aunt Jemima kind), and how to frost our cornflakes with a heaping spoonful of glistening, granulated sugar. I still sheepishly eschew maple syrup for that other kind, but the rest of my taste buds have grown more refined with age.
Needless to say, I was thrilled to see the glowing lights of Penguini Gelato beckon to me in downtown Paia – there’s a new dessert place in town!
Penguini is attached to the Paia Inn. While you can enter through the inn’s courtyard, a large side window and counter is but steps from the Hana Highway sidewalk between the Chevron station and Flatbread.
Right away, cupcakes catch my eye; they are prominently displayed right by the window counter along with truffles (ginger, espresso, and even raw chocolate), macaroons and triple chocolate cookies. Each time I stop by, there is but one flavor of cupcake to choose from. (This works out well for me; I get overwhelmed by too many choices.) So far I’ve tried the chocolate cupcake topped with chocolate ganache (amazingly smooth and creamy), chocolate topped with a butterscotch cream (my favorite), and one crowned in a swirl of chocolate butter cream (delightful and not too sweet).
Though I’ve gotten distracted by the cupcakes, Penguini’s main attraction is its gelato and sorbet. Owner Melissa McKelvey makes every sweet treat from scratch using fresh, local ingredients. Her gelato and sorbets come in traditional flavors like Mexican chocolate and vanilla bean, as well as the more exotic lime-ginger. Sorbet flavors range from tangerine and coconut to lilikoi-dragonfruit. Melissa also offers a variety of ice-cream sandwiches, such as butterscotch cookie with chocolate banana gelato, oatmeal cookie with mango-lime gelato, and a chocolate cookie with chocolate mint gelato. My boyfriend recently sampled the latter. You know how little kids never take their eyes off the ice cream as they lick away, lest it disappear from them without warning. This is the same focused look my thirty year-old man had. He had little to say about the ice cream; he was too busy polishing off his dessert, down to the last cookie crumb and the few droplets of gelato that had dripped onto his fingertips.
Finish off with a cup of caffevita espresso before strolling on through town.
$3.00 for a cup of gelato or sorbet, ice-cream sandwiches and cupcakes
$7.00 for a pint
$ 2.00 truffles
The daily hours read 12:30pm to 8:30pm but sometime they stay open a little later.