Meet Your Neighbor: Gina's Kitchen Parkside

Aurora, Colorado, is filled with stories of passion, resilience, and the unwavering spirit of entrepreneurship. Follow along with us as we showcase the heartbeat of our community, one story at a time.

Join us as we chat with Gina Di Tullio, the owner of Gina's Kitchen, and learn more about her story! 

Dissatisfied by the options available to those with food allergies and intolerances, Gina Di Tullio created Gina’s Kitchen Parkside, a dynamic Aurora restaurant inside of Parkside Eatery specializing in gluten-free & vegan options with flavors that satisfy all palates. 14515 E Alameda Ave.

What was the inspiration behind your business?

After years of struggling with my food allergies and trying to find quality products in stores and restaurants that were safe and tasty, I decided to try my hand at gluten, dairy, egg, and peanut-free baking. I discovered it was such a different science that I had to relearn how to bake. I taught computer science in higher education and used my students as guinea pigs to help me test different flour blends, and finally, I came up with a great cookie.

From there, I moved on to granola and chocolate, so I had some options to help satisfy my sweet tooth. Soon after, a friend told me about the Cottage Food Act, which allows the creation and selling of products in a home kitchen. I thought I would see if others liked my items, so I opened a cottage bakery called Gina’s Kitchen Delights. (GKD). Four years later, I expanded to 36 different products, and GKD outgrew my house. I started to find or create an allergen-free commercial kitchen to grow my business more adequately. Finding that commercial kitchens, which support multiple food allergies, were, and still are, pretty much non-existent, I decided to build my own.

While researching what it would take to open a commercial kitchen, I decided I wanted a small storefront to sell my product in a retail environment, in addition to peer-to-peer and at food markets and festivals. As time passed, I also realized I wanted to provide hot food and a safe restaurant for people with food sensitivities and alternative food diets. I had successfully catered and provided services as a personal chef for events, such as music soirees, weddings, and retirement and graduation parties, where my recipes were very well received. I thought it would be nice to consistently offer hot food to those in need of a safe space. This space came to be known as Gina’s Kitchen.

How do you stay inspired and innovative in your industry?

I often wake up dreaming about new products. As creative expression is essential for our growth and evolution, I encourage those moments and work toward replicating my dreams as often as possible. New products also stem from leftover materials I don't want to donate. I’d rather throw together something to use up excess caramel and a bunch of berries than let them spoil and go to waste.

What menu item or recipe at Gina's Kitchen do you recommend to customers most often, and what makes it so popular?

The Gina's Special sandwich, a cheesy turkey melt with avocado and tomato, is our most popular sandwich, followed closely by the Tuna Salad Aioli and the grilled PAC&J sandwiches.

On the bakery side of things, our replica of the Hostess Ding Dong– which we call a Doorbell–in any of its seven varieties, our Cookie Dough Truffle, and our Macha Whoopie Pie–not to be confused with green tea matcha. (At Gina's Kitchen, Macha means large–or, as many customers say, "it's as big as your face!")

What role do you see your business playing in contributing to the overall vibrancy and culture of Aurora?

At Gina's Kitchen, we make it our priority to ensure that there is something for everyone. If we don't have it in the case or a customer has special restrictions, they can place a particular order. So far, we have been able to accommodate 99% of the limits that we encounter.

Gina'st Gina's, we are highly inclusive. We respect food intolerances, allergies, and dietary preferences and work hard to deliver our customers safely through their food experiences. We offer delicious baked goods and sandwiches prepared on homemade bread, fresh salads, homemade soups, french fries, tots, or handmade pasta chips smothered in homemade vegan or non-vegan chili.

So much of our socialization is surrounding food. It is very challenging for people with food restrictions to feel comfortable in social settings, at parties, picnics, and simply meeting friends out for a meal. More often than not, those with alternative diets risk their health, emotional wellness, and comfort for the opportunity to spend time with friends and loved ones in food-centric social situations and restaurants.

It is typical for people with food restrictions to have minimal if not only one, option when dining at most restaurants–which often coincides with anxiety and fear that education, safety, and allergen protocols are not in place or practice.

In Aurora, Gina's kitchen is essential in providing alternative food options for all our guests–including people with specific dietary restrictions such as food allergies, intolerances, and lifestyle and religious food preferences. I often hear comments from customers about how happy they are to have a safe place to eat–where there are many options from which to choose, and they can eat food that makes their heart and tummies happy.

What are you most proud of as a business owner?

I am very proud of our adaptation, learning, and growth over the last year. Gina's Kitchen offGina'sy opened her doors in August of 2022 at the Parkside Eatery. About two weeks later, the apartment complex in the same parking lot as Gina's Kitchen and Gina's retail proprietors were evacuated due to a construction explosion.

The residents of the apartment complex scattered to find new homes, and the business tenants of the barely budding Parkside Eatery, including Gina's Kitchen, began to find a new customer base. Since then, we at Gina's have been scouring the surrounding businesses and neighborhoods to find customers who could benefit from our products.

Although it has been slow growing, we have found that most of our customers are seeking us out. They see us while traveling from the airport, visiting Anschutz, Children's, and the VA Hospitals, or simply stopping in during their drive through Colorado.

Luckily, we don't rely on walk-in traffic, as our location, in the Parkside Eatery, is a bit hard to access and is not very well advertised outside of the building. We benefit heavily when our customers add us to–or mention us on–dietary-specific apps, like FindMe Gluten Free and Happy Cow, and on our strong Google and growing social media presence.

We value the importance of peer reviews, word-of-mouth referrals, and other grassroots marketing styles that we have explored and benefited from over the last year and a half. You can see Gina's ads in magazines and hotels, on online news sites, bus benches, flyers, and the very much appreciated media spotlights from television news programs, podcasts, and web blogs–like this one!