Object of desire: Yogurt gelato at Bulgarini
When you find yourself in the upper reaches of Altadena, strolling through Millard Canyon perhaps, or returning from the splendid Wednesday afternoon Altadena farmers market, it will probably occur to you that you are within striking distance of Bulgarini Gelato, a tiny shop that is always mentioned when the subject of L.A.'s best ice cream arises.
Leo Bulgarini, the proprietor, is nearly as fanatical about his gelato as he is about his hometown AS Roma soccer team -- I once saw him nearly vault over his freezer case to confront a taunting fan of rival Lazio -- and he is especially adept at capturing the flavors of ripe, local fruit. It is hard to say what is better: his goat's milk gelato with toasted cocoa nibs or the gelato he makes with the ultra-pricey Bronte pistachios he hand-carries from Sicily.
But occasionally what you want is the simple goodness of his yogurt gelato, a scoop so rich and yet not-rich, tart and yet not-tart that it should make the czarinas of Pinkberry, Red Mango and Menchie's weep bitter tears of shame. It is savory –- there's a bit of sea salt in it -– and it is often served with a few drops of Tuscan olive oil, just enough to flavor the gelato without overwhelming it with greasiness. It is a gelato you could serve as a cheese course.
House policy at Bulgarini mandates a three-scoop minimum, at $2.50 per, so if you were so inclined -- and why wouldn't you be? -- you can get the yogurt with olive oil in one cup, plus another cup of pomegranate sorbetto and Florentine chocolate gelato, or zabiglione and crema di limone, or blood orange and strawberry for dessert.
749 E. Altadena Dr., Altadena, (626) 791-6174; also in the Tea Forest Café, 8686 Washington Blvd., Culver City, (310) 815-1723.
-- Jonathan Gold
Photo: Jonathan Gold