A co-worker told me about an off-menu item at the new Puopolo’s Italian Ice & Creamery.
“Just ask for the Uncle Dan,” she said. “They will know what you want, and you have to try it.”
So, by golly, I did just that, and it was delicious. The Uncle Dan had a bottom layer of vanilla soft-serve ice cream, a middle section of sour apple Italian ice and a top layer of vanilla soft-serve. The whole thing was drenched in hot caramel.
During my interview with owners Kris and Jim Eddy, I asked if there was a real Uncle Dan, and they pointed to a picture of a man on the wall.
“That’s my Uncle Dan (Bair),” Kris said. “He’s a pastor at Kirk of the Hills and one of the reasons we moved to Tulsa.”
In addition to her uncle and his family, Kris’ parents also reside in Tulsa. For the past 15 years, Kris and Jim and their children have lived in New Jersey, and Jim had a corporate job in Philadelphia.
“We’ve been coming to visit here every year for 10 years,” Jim Eddy said. “I had a good job, but the kids were getting older, and we were looking for a change of pace. And Kris and I always wanted to work together.”
During their trips to Tulsa, they noticed there wasn’t an Italian ice place here.
“They are popular in Philadelphia, where they call it water ice, or actually pronounce it ‘wooder ice,’ ” Jim said. “It’s not like a snow cone. Instead of shaving ice and adding a liquid flavor to it, we mix water and flavorings together and then slow churn and freeze them like ice cream.
“It’s kind of like a sorbet. It’s nondairy, and because we blend all of the flavorings together, the last bite will taste exactly like the first bite.”
Eddy said they looked into Italian ice franchises but weren’t satisfied with what they found.
“There are so many restrictions with a franchise,” he said. “The more we studied it, the more we thought we could do it ourselves.”
Eddy said by coincidence, they found the equipment they needed and the product they needed all within minutes of their home in New Jersey.
“Then we met a guy who worked with a company in Italy that wanted to expand its gelato business, so we decided to add gelato,” he said. “We get all of our gelato ingredients from Italy.
“Then we added soft-serve, but it wasn’t your typical soft-serve. Where most places have only vanilla or chocolate, our equipment can produce nine flavors at one time.”
So Puopolo’s (pronounced POP-a-low’s) wound up with 12 flavors of Italian ice, 10 flavors of gelato and nine flavors of soft-serve at any one time.
Variations on those include what Eddy calls strati, layers of soft-serve and Italian ice like the Uncle Dan, and tortalati, vanilla or chocolate cake with gelato and a variety of toppings.
Puopolo’s, the maiden name of Kris’ mother, also offers shakes, concretes, floats and sundaes prepared from its soft-serve line. A variety of sauces, syrups and toppings or mix-ins also are available.
House-made ice cream sandwiches in a variety of flavors and quarts of gelato also are available for takeout.
On a recent visit, we tried a couple of combinations and both were winners. We had a large hazelnut and pistachio gelato topped with pistachios ($4.95) and a regular orange cream and piña colada Italian ice ($3.50). Each was plenty for one person.
Puopolo’s is located in a strip center behind a QuikTrip at 89th Street and Yale Avenue in space that formerly held Ludger’s Bavarian Cakery before it moved to a larger location.
It is light and bright. It has limited seating inside but has a large covered patio that can handle a crowd in good weather.
Eddy said coming soon will be a food truck and a push cart “to give us more exposure around town.”
In addition to Kris and Jim, son Tim and his wife, Laura; son Josh and daughter Abby all work at Puopolo’s.
“The kids were just as much in favor of this move as we were,” Jim Eddy said.
“Tulsa is like a little big city. It has all the things the big city has, but it has a small-town feel, and the people are the salt of the Earth.”
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