May 2009

Bulgarini Gelato – Altadena


Bulgarini Gelato came across my radar via a post on Serious Eats titled, I Ate L.A. by Daniel Zemans.

On a quick trip to the City of Angels, this muy serioso eater tore up the local cheap eats scene with feedings at Yum Yum Doughnuts, Apple Pan, Stan’s Donuts, Bulgarini Gelato, Diddy Riese, Pizzeria Mozza, Kogi, Philippe’s, Cielito Lindo, Fugetsu-Do Confectioneries, A-Won, Los Balcones Del Peru, Mashti Malone’s, Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles, Chicken Itza, and Langer’s Deli.


After gorging his way through our fair city, Zemans proclaimed with confidence, “Bulgarini’s gelato was the best thing I ate on my trip.”

On an awesomely hot Sunday afternoon in April, The Astronomer, Laurie, and I hoofed it to the boonies to see if Altadena’s Bulgarini was really the cat’s meow. We each ordered smalls ($3.85), which allowed us to choose three different flavors. From the selection of fifteen gelatos, granitas, and sorbets available, I chose scoops of cherimoya, strawberry, and almond.

Of the three, the almond gelato was the most spectacular due to its intense nuttiness and sandy, yet creamy texture. The cherimoya gelato, with its fleeting but satisfying tropical sweetness, was a delightful number as well. However, its soft texture couldn’t stand up to the brutal San Gabriel heat. The strawberry sorbet was my least favorite of the trio due to its icy mouth-feel. The artisanal gelato makers at Philadelphia’s famed Capogiro produce amazing fat-free sorbets that are out-of-this-world creamy.

Laurie went for scoops of almond, coffee, and dark chocolate. She liked the coffee and chocolate, but she loved the almond. Whereas coffee ice cream usually tastes super-sweet like Vietnamese ca phe sua da, Bulgarini’s coffee flavored gelato tasted of freshly brewed black coffee.

The Astronomer chose scoops of cherimoya, strawberry with chili powder, and pineapple. Even with its icy texture, the strawberry chili was sensational, with an appealingly peppery kick. The pineapple tasted dull next to the sexy strawberry, but that’s to be expected.

I returned to Bulgarini a week later with my lovely friend Esme. We studied abroad together in Rome during college and have consumed copious amounts of gelato together throughout the years. On our visit, we settled on scoops of almond (of course!), orange chocolate, and almond chocolate. The almond gelato was as terrific on this visit as it was on the previous one. The almond chocolate was wonderful as well, combining the almond’s winning nuttiness with deep dark chocolaty richness. The orange chocolate captured the essence of orangettes in gelato form. The only addition that would’ve made it even tastier would have been actual bits of candied orange peels.

Bulgarini Gelato
749 E. Altadena Drive
Altadena, CA 91001
Phone: 626-791-6174

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9 thoughts on “Bulgarini Gelato – Altadena

  1. Nice shout-out to Capogiro! Love love their Thai coconut milk gelato. Also the affogato-style hazlenut, dark chocolate or cinnamon is wonderful.

  2. Before you make your next trip, check to see if Leo made the yogurt gelato which has olive oil and Celtic salt. I had it as part of a 4 course Olive Oil dinner at Il Moro and it was just divine, made even better when extra virgin olive oil was poured over it. 🙂

  3. I’ve been meaning to try their gelato since reading that Serious Eats post too! The almond sounds amazing. I’ll have to make the trip ASAP.

  4. I’ve never seen almond gelato before. It sounds so good! This place seems to have a lot of unique flavors, like Cherimoya!

  5. Wow! That must be new to Altadena (Which is NOT the boonies!). When we lived there no one ever mentioned it.

    I just cottoned on to Cherimoya, and even if the flavor is fleeting, I think that gelato might be worth a trip to CA. And almond? Yum!

    Are you going to check out the Armenian places up in Altadena? Maybe you should…just sayin’.

  6. Annie – After nearly two years away from Philly, it’s Capogiro and Rittenhouse Square that I miss the most! Oh, and running along the river too.

    Abby – Will do! I love olive oil gelato, especially Batali’s at Otto in NYC. I’ve also heard that Bulgarini’s pistachio is great.

    Jeni – Before you finally head over, give ’em a ring to make sure they’ve got some nutty flavors on offer.

    Anjali – Glad to read we’re gleaning eating inspiration from similar sources 😉

    Kirbie – I love seeking out weirdo ice cream/gelato/sorbet flavors. The stranger the better in my book.

    Fiona – Your comments always crack me up. Altadena is in the boonies according to the Westside dwelling Yelpers. Vernon and I find that pretty hilarious since we live 15 minutes away. Thanks for the reminder to try the Armenian bakery on Washington.

  7. Cathy, I heard that the pistachio gelato is still a month out. From what Leo told me, he’s planning a trip there so that he can purchase the pistachios direct from the farmers.

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