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Bulgarini Gelato has opened...

  • Moomin Apr 14, 2007 02:34 PM
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749 East Altadena, at the corner of Lake Street. There's no permanent signage, just some hand painted plywood, and the full menu isn't yet available (though I did see a few people ordering tiny cups of espresso)... but the gelato is as good as ever!

They're giving away small scoops today, with one or two flavors. Normally these will run $3.50, so get there before they run out...

Today they featured: Chocolate, Chocolate/Rum, Chocolate Cinnamon, Zabaglione, Cinnamon Cream, Gin/Melon, Hazelnut, Pistachio, Blueberry, Strawberry, Raspberry, Cherimoya... and a few others that have slipped my mind.

There was an impressive line when we got there, but it moved steadily... we were in and out in less than 30 minutes. They were already out of a few flavors, but there was still a wider variety than they'd ever had on their cart... some of the folks in line were buying multiple half-kilo cold-pak containers of flavors that they liked, so, you never know what will be left when you arrive.

Leo and Elizabeth looked a little shell shocked at the rush, and it was only 12:45... and they're going to try to stay open until 8:00. They had about ten people standing around trying to help, but the organization was pretty inept. They had the cart set up outside, but nobody was tending it, so everyone had to step inside the store, where most of the staff (and family and friends) were just standing around taking up room.

Still, between this and the Caviar ice-cream at Scoops its a very good day to eat something cold.

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  1. C'mon, gelato-heads - where's the good word on this place? Need to hear some news about the Gin/Melon, Zabaglione, Pistachio, and Cherimoya! How can I butress a trip out to Bulgarini in Altadena? Where to go before and/or after? Descanso Gardens? The Huntington? Dim sum in SGV might kill the desire to shovel down gelato... or would it?

    3 Replies
    1. re: bulavinaka

      Gelato! Yum! What's cherimoya. I've seen it at local farmer's markets. I know it's in season, but what exactly is it? What does it taste like. Can you compare it to something, as far as taste?

      1. re: cheesecustard

        Hmmm... how does one describe the flavor of a cherimoya? Well, the flavor to me consists of about 60% pineapple, about 25% banana without the strong scent, and the rest is a mix of maybe apple and a little hint of citrus. When perfectly ripe, it has the consistancy of a custard, and is perfect for making into a sorbetto or even a gelato. In fact, one can freeze the cherimoya and end up with something akin to a sorbetto. The fruit can be cut in half and the pulp can be scooped out with a spoon. It has a fair amount of seeds, but they are large enough - about the size of a dry pinto bean - to be easily discarded.

        Cherimoya is as prevalent in Peru as apples are over here. Fortunately for us, alot of growers seem to be starting up more cherimoya orchards as the weather in alot of So Cal fits this fruit tree's culture. The only catch is the blossoms need to be polinated by hand - twice a day - as the natural polinator is only in Peru; thus, the somewhat high price per pound. As more quantities come to market, the price is dropping - you ought to give it a try if you see them at the farmers markets. The prices can be more reasonable depending on the time of the year and the size of the fruit. Just ask the grower about how to ripen it and how to store it.

        Thinking about cherimoya as a flavor offered at Bulgarini makes me feel a serious need to go out there...

        1. re: cheesecustard

          I actually describe cherimoya as durian without the smell of decay.

      2. i've pledged my allegiance enough to BULGARINI to be predictable here, so i'll describe how an italian customer reacted while i was there. she asked for nocciola (hazlenut), pistacchio, and torone (i think nougat). she was going crazy, kissing Leo. extolling how L.A. finally has real gelato. three kilos at 28.50 and she was gone back to brentwood. it was like watching an italian sitcom, hand waving and everything.

        the gelato is great if not better than before. they are completely overwhelmed by the response and had no idea they'd have lines around the corner. they've taken a desolate little mall in a not great area where we only go occasionally for auto parts and made it a delight.

        warning: avoid the bakery across the way. it was great when it was owned by nancy, but not anymore.

        9 Replies
        1. re: revets2

          Finally - someone throwing us a bone! Thanks for the great story! What did you end up trying?

          1. re: bulavinaka

            everything.

            granita: blood orange

            sorbetti: anana (pineapple), cantaloupe, cantaloupe w/ vodka, cantaloupe w/gin, casaba melon, cherimoya, lapone (raspberry), fragola (strawberry),

            gelati: cioccolata, cubano (choc. w/ rum), bacio (choc. w/ hazlenuts), cioc con canela (choc. w/ cinammon), cioc. con arancia (choc. w/ orange), pistacchio, nocciola (hazlenut), espresso, crema, zambaglione/crema con marsala, crema con canela (cinammon), fragola y crema (strawberries & cream), banana, mirtillio (blueberry), lemon cream...that's all i can remember.

            didn't have, didn't need dinner that night.

            1. re: revets2

              I can only dream of trying all of those wonderful flavors on one visit, let alone live to tell about it and remember all of the names.... You are awesome!

              Which were your top three, and what'd you think of the cherimoya and the ones laced with booze?

              1. re: bulavinaka

                the cherimoya is great. i can't be more eloquent than a. scattergood's words from the LAT article. the slight addition of gin/marsala/vodka/rum adds a "depth of flavor" to the sorbetti. it also adds some complexity to the fruit.

                1. re: revets2

                  My dreams will gelato and sorbetto dreams will finally come true... Thank you for your great review!

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    was there 15 min. before closing. i had already missed the mango and a couple of other flavors. customers kept coming, even after 8pm. they shut the doors and called it a night by 9pm. leo had been making gelati since 3am.

                    his mother said there was a line out the door today. given the location, i'm shocked, but i guess that goes to show how far people will go for great and real gelato.

                    1. re: revets2

                      It sounds like Leo really didn't expect what came there way upon opening the doors to their business. He must now realize how fantastic of a reputation he has. A great product will always stand on its own - good location or not. Please keep us posted of your ongoing pleasure trips to Bulgarini - I'm tasting vicariously through you until I get out there! Thanks again.

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        Still haven't managed to try this yet, but I hope if it's as good as it's reputed that people will keep going back even after the opening days hoopla. I think free gelato probably have something to do with the crowd.

                        1. re: notmartha

                          we went to try to get gelato on free gelato day and saw neighbors in line. we weren't going to wait in the line that wrapped around the mall preferring a shorter wait and paying $3-$4 for gelato. our neighbors waited two hours!

                          hoping it would be less busy the next non-free gelato day, there was again a huge line, about a 30 min. wait. and i saw some repeats from the day before. we went 15 min. to closing last night as i said in my post above and they said it was also a busy day both at the shop and for catering (apparently they participated in the wrap party for CSI Vegas).

                          the key may be to go earlier in the week and early. last night we had already missed a couple of flavors. my face went smile to frown when his mother scraped the last of the pistachio for another customer, then leo said his next batch would be up in 15 minutes if i could wait which i did and it was worth it.

                          so far, people are going back after opening free gelato day. i don't know what they'll do when his mom goes back to italy. she's terrific.

        2. I went by this afternoon - probably 4:30ish, and they were doing steady business - people getting 1/2 kilo mixed-packs to go (including the last of the chocolate chip, which is what I'd been thinking to order *sniff*). By the time I made it to the front of the line, there were people lined-up out the door and I felt guilty about asking for tastes (thought I did so want to!), so I ordered a small half chocolate/half banana. Perfection! Rich, smooth, creamy, deeply flavored - the essence of chocolate and the essence of banana in each spoonful.

          I need to brush-up on my Italian, though - I wasn't very successful at puzzling out the flavors based on the labels. Not that I'm complaining! I think I would have been equally as happy had I just closed my eyes and pointed - there was nothing that looked anything less than fantasy-inducing.

          3 Replies
          1. re: ElsieDee

            Revets2 has compiled quite an amazing list of flavors in the post above. The flavors are listed in Italian and their English translations follow. Maybe you can print out this post and bring it with you for starters... Thanks again, Revets2!

            1. re: bulavinaka

              *laughing* That would have been the logical, organized thing to do - my trip was a spur-of-the-moment kind of thing. But yes, I've now copied and pasted Revets2's list and will print it out. Thanks, Revets2!

              1. re: ElsieDee

                My guess is you were caught up in the moment - passion does that to our senses and sensibilites... now that you've been around the block (probably literally while in line at Bulgarini), you can approach their frozen elixers with more cunning but with passion as your motive... ;))

          2. i was there today (rainy friday) at a little past 1. no one in line, and a nice selection of flavors. i think the rainy day has helped them catch their breath and prepare for the onslaught of a (predicted) nice day saturday. i tried the pistachio, chocolate cinnamon and plain cinnamon. all three were wonderful, and the trio of flavors was quite complementary. i am anxious to try some of the flavors that they were out of today...will be making this detour again soon.

            1. at the risk of not having the flavors i love available, my favorite flavor combination is (drum roll please):

              pistacchio con fragola (or pistachio with strawberry)

              not intuitive, i know, but a gelatario that elizabeth bulgarini trained with, carlo pistacchi at alaska in venezia, turned me on to it. he would take fresh strawberry granita, top it with fresh pistacchio, a little whipped cream and chopped fresh spearmint. amazing and totally addicting.

              my pet peeve are people who shove four flavors in a cup that don't go together. the gelato nazi in venice won't let you do it! i get it!

              maybe everyone can start their favorite gelato/ice cream combos here. i'll start:

              pistacchio con fragola

              1. Went today, it is kind of chilly and crappy outside but there were still crowds passing through Bulgarini off and on. My family lived in Italy (in a little town called Nervi, outside of Genoa) for a summer and this is the only gelato we have had in memory that compares to the stuff at the local place in Nervi. We prattled on and on about the zabaglione on the walk back to our house.

                The zabaglione was particularly, outrageously, creamy and subtle. The pistachio is also as good as everyone says (far more complex than the banal stuff that usually passes for pistachio flavor in ice creams of all stripes). I can't wait to try the raspberry and cherimoya.

                Leo Bulgarini is destined to drag that pathetic little mini-mall up by the bootstraps... and if they ever need room to expand their operations, it won't be hard to scare some up :-)

                Addenda (cf. revets2, above): the caffe con cubano was great, as was the pistacchio con cioccolato con arancia that my mom decided upon. My wife, wisely, just got an entire scoop of zabaglione, which was finished long before any of the other cuplets were emptied (we 'shared').

                1 Reply
                1. re: ttriche

                  Ahhh - zabaglione... how sublime...

                2. My friend and I went yesterday. I got mango and honeydew. It was so delicious as always. It was my friend's first time trying Buglarini's gelato and he absolutely loved it. He especially loved the coconut. After he finished, he could smell the coconut on his fingers and he mentioned how he feels like licking his fingers cause the coconut tasted and smelled so good. It was the best thing he's had.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: thebat

                    I'm just hoping they start selling by the half kilo -- the kilo $14 size is a little too big now that I'm an empty nester without 2 teenage boys. But people just kept thanking them for opening, the whole time I was there. The line kept up at 6-10 people at a time rate, and it was late last Sunday evening, and they had sold out of many flavors already!

                    1. re: MaryT

                      they do sell a 1/2 kilo - it's 14.50. a kilo is $28-28.50. i thought i saw some quarter kilo containers, but leo & elizabeth are quite flexible it seems. i've seen them give a 1/4 kilo in a 1/2 kilo container, go to the back, weigh it, and charge appropriately.

                      you can always ask.

                  2. Finally made my pilgrimage over there this weekend. Despite the dreary weather, people were still lining up to eat the gelato, shivering all the while.

                    We had cinnamon vanilla, chocolate, mango, golden kiwi, melone, and chocolate chip amongst the three of us. Melone was as good as the ones at San Crispino in Rome (the mecca for gelato). I also liked the chocolate chip but will pass on the kiwi next time.

                    Overall this place is very good - right consistency (not too fluffy), great flavors. I would love it if they ever make honey, lemon, lemoncello, fig, zuppa inglese, or flor de latte gelato someday. They certain seem to have enough of a variety to play with right now.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: notmartha

                      leo has made fig when it's in season. unfortunately, fig is not in season. when some use paste and syrup, it's easy to get any flavor all the time.

                      thanks for the SAN CRISPINO moment. you brought back great memories and i think their MELONE is their best flavor...like biting into a fresh melon only better!

                      1. re: revets2

                        Good to know. I was wondering if he would make it - guess I'll just have to wait until summer when the figs are nice and ripe. Great that I don't have to trek to Italy to get something of the same quality! Just love that melone.

                        If others can report weekly what kind of seasonal flavors he has in store (guessing they have standards like pistachio, chocolates and strawberries all the time) that'll be great. I'll send my hubbie (ice bag always ready in the car) when I see limoncello. ;)

                    2. Well, my daughter and I finally made the trip to Bulgarini today! I had trouble finding it (it's kind of behind the Kragen Auto Parts store) but it was well worth it. When we walked in, there were only 2 groups ahead of us, so I thought it would be quick. But with only one person behind the counter, a group of 8, then another group of two, and everybody trying every single sample of every single flavor, it took quite a while.

                      By the time it was our turn, I felt guilty sampling because of the growing line behind us, so my daughter wanted to sample the pinapple (which was delicious--just like taking a bite of a real pineapple!), but she didn't like it, so we both ended up sharing a chocolate chip and cinnamon vanilla. Both were delicious!

                      The funny thing is that we went and sat outside to eat the gelato and an elderly couple came up (by this time the line was really long) and they decided for the man to sit outside while the wife ordered. He came and sat at the table next to us, which was in the sun, and before I could ask him if he wanted our seats, he asked what flavors we had and how they compared to ice cream.

                      I told him that in my opinion it was delicious, but pretty much the same as delicious ice cream. He said that he had heard about Bulgarini's and had to try some gelato for the first time since he owned an ice cream company. I looked at his baseball hat and it said "Fosselman's" on it...it turned out that he was the owner!

                      We talked to him for quite a while (I told him I loved his ice creams!) and he was SO nice and I called my husband on the way home to tell him who I met.

                      I'm sure Mr. Fosselman loved his gelato too!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Spiff

                        What a great story! Wow. Mr. Fosselman eating at Bulgarini. :)

                        FYI, I also thought Bulgarini was hard to find. I didn't realize Alta Dena Dr. was at the end of Lake Ave., and then I turned the wrong way on Alta Dena Dr.

                        I finally figured it out, though, and I had a great cup of hazelnut and pistachio gelato. It was delicious.

                        1. re: Spiff

                          Guess word is really getting out.

                          We went there on Saturday night and they don't seem to have that much flavors left - just the usual strawberry, chocolate, pistachio, vanilla cinnamon, lemon cream, pineapple. The lemon cream is very good (would be absolutely perfect if it's a tad more tart), so we got a 1/2 kilo to go.

                          Guess I am the only one here whose not a fan of the pistachio. Can't get over the color.

                          The nice thing about the gelato is that it's light and kind of fluffy (comparing to regular ice cream), but still tasted rich. Unfortunately by the time I sample the ice cream at home after putting it into the freezer the darn thing seems to lose some of the nice texture - goes from way too hard to melting into a puddle. Guess have to try the trick about leaving it in the fridge for 30 minutes before eating and see if that improves it - was too impatient to wait.

                          The store is not hard to find in that they have large signs out at the intersection. However, the first time there I just didn't expect it to be so far up the hill, and keep thinking that we went too far and somehow missed it.

                          1. re: notmartha

                            Right. I kept thinking I went too far up on Lake too. The sign out at the front of the parking lot definitely helped.

                        2. I've been there three times now, and it just keeps getting better. The pistachio is everything I read it would be - deep, rich, smooth pistachio flavor, the deliciously fresh fruit sorbettos capture the essence of whatever fruit they're made of, and the coffee gelato tastes like it was just brewed, if you will. Wonderful.

                          Fun fact: last time I went, pug-faced everyman actor John C. Reilly was there with his kids buying 3 of their largest cartons of gelato. No one seemed to know who he was, save me and my mum. We'd actually seen him before at the Hollywood Bowl, so it wasn't quite the thrill my mom likes to have seeing celebrities out and about. "Why do I always see the same ones," she griped..

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: sanangel

                            I believe he actually lives in Altadena (or nearby)...we've seen him around too.

                            1. re: Spiff

                              Their Gelato is incredible. Anybody who tells you otherwise is lying :) The prices are almost too low... for all the work Leo puts into making his gelato, I feel like I'm stealing from him every time I walk out.

                              1. re: Scarantino

                                We went there in the afternoon on a Saturday about two weeks ago and had "lemon cream" and "strawberry sorbet" (those seemed to be the most compelling flavors available at the time), and, to tell you the truth, I was underwhelmed. Neither was particularly well-balanced in a sweet-vs-sour way, and neither had a memorably strong hit of the fruit to it. The too-smooth, almost unctuous texture reminded me of (surprise!) Fosselman's, and I'd rather just go to Fosselman's, where it's about half as expensive, if I'm in the mood for that type of ice cream.

                                Sorry, Bulgarini -- I had high expectations for you based on all the CH hype, but what I had there wasn't worth the price, especially if you factor in the time and gas it takes to drive there from where I am.