Gilardoni, who was a teenager during the political unification (Risorgimento) of Italy, served in the national military during the 1870s. He emigrated to Mobile late in that decade and opened a confectionary shop on Dauphin Street. When his business failed, he took a job as a cook at the Independence Saloon. By 1885 he was proprietor of the Merchant's Exchange Saloon, offering wine, liquor, and cigars along with meals served in "first-class style".
In 1887 Gilardoni relocated to Birmingham and opened Paul's Cafe as a "modest coffee house" at 209 20th Street North, where he developed a reputation as a pastry chef. He soon moved to a larger space, originally billed as The Mobile Restaurant at 109-111 19th Street North. He offered a table d'hôte along with a la carte items, and also operated an ice cream parlor on the second floor. He renamed the establishment "Paul's Cafe" in September 1891. According to an advertisement, he served "everything in his line in the best style" and offered private upstairs dining rooms, with service until 1:00 AM. That October he hosted Governor Thomas Jones for a dinner with friends at the restaurant. In 1892 he advertised the cafe as, "The Only Second-Class Restaurant in the South."
By 1888 Gilardoni was serving as commissary for the 2nd Regiment, Alabama State Troops, with the rank of captain, directly under Colonel Louis Clark. He was compensated $14 for his expenses incurred in feeding the militia during their mobilization for the Hawes riot that December. In 1896 he raised an artillery battery to compliment the Jefferson Volunteers.
During the 1890s Gilardoni pursued other investments. He purchased 170 acres at North Lake where he hoped to establish fruit orchards and vineyards. He summoned his brother, Louis Gilardoni to bring his family to Alabama to assist in the enterprise. He also held a share of the Southern Graphite Mining & Manufacturing Co. which was engaged in developing graphite mines in Clay County. Gilardoni's family vacationed at Camp Paul in Clay County in the summer of 1902.
Paul and his wife Annie had several children and resided at 1518 5th Avenue North, later moving to the 800 block of 18th Street South. In addition to his militia service, he was active in the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, the Mineral City Lodge No. 101 of the Royal Arch Masons, and "other secret orders". Gilardoni was mentioned as a possible candidate for Mayor of Birmingham in 1896.
During the rebuilding of the Metropolitan Hotel in 1900, hotel owner Emil Lesser took Gilardoni on as a partner to cater meetings and to operate the Metropolitan Cafe. Gilardoni continued to operate his own restaurant as well as the Black Cat Saloon, also on 19th Street, until his death, from edema (then called "dropsy"), in August 1905. He was buried at Elmwood Cemetery.
- "Capt. Paul Gilardoni Dead" (September 6, 1905) Our Mountain Home
- Shields, David S. (2017) The Culinarians: Lives and Careers from the First Age of American Fine Dining. Chicago: University of Chicago Press ISBN 9780226406923, pp. 434-435
- Paul Gilardoni at Findagrave.com