Paczki Day 2019: Bakeries celebrate Mardi Gras the traditionally Polish way

CHICAGO (WLS) -- To most people, it's Fat Tuesday. But to a Chicagoan, today is Paczki Day. A Polish tradition that Chicago has adopted as its own.

"The original history behind it was with Catholics during Lent. When Lent starts, people eat a little bit less or they go into fasting," owner of Kolatek's Bakery & Deli, Bart Kolatek said. "So they get rid of the booze, the sugars, the fruit preserves, they get rid of all those other things in one fell swoop, so they came up with paczkis."

Kolatek immigrated to the United States when he was just six years old. His father is one of the original owners of Kolatek's Bakery and made sure the family's Polish roots stayed at the forefront of the business by serving traditional treats like paczki.

So how are these filled, delicious desserts made?

"They start out small in a little tiny bun and then they're proofed, grow out large and they are fried, then they're overstuffed with our flavors," Kolatek said.

The bakery offers several different paczki flavors, including more traditional favorites like blueberry, raspberry and plum butter. Kolatek's also offers some out-of-the-ordinary flavors like rum raisin, caramel bacon and Grand Marnier liquor.

So this Fat Tuesday, eat your heart out! And remember, paczkis are a little different than your everyday jelly donut.

"Paczkis are supposed to shock you with the amount stuffing there's in it. It's supposed to go all over your chin when you're eating it, it's overfilled for a reason," Kolatek said.
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