This summer has been scorching, which is why, I was more than happy to be at Bulgarini Gelato last August to experience delicious gelatos and sorbets at a tasting I set up with the shop. The tasting started off with owner, Leo Bulgarini, giving us some history about how Bulgarini Gelato came to be. What many may or may not know is that he and his wife, Elizabeth spent two years back and forth in Italy trying to someone who could teach them the art of making gelato from scratch. This was actually quite a difficult task since the majority of the gelaterias are industrial. Finally, they met a third-generation retired gelato maker and spent two months with him learning the craft.
Afterwards, they came back to the US and started small with Leo selling his gelato from carts at a local movie theater in Pasadena as well as at the courtyard of the Pacific Asian Museum. Eventually, they were able to open a small courtyard shop in hilly Altadena, which is where we all were that day.
After the talk, we were shown this amazing gelato maker that sits in the corner of the shop. It's over 50 years old and built to last. In fact, that old-timer actually made one of the sorbets that were part of our tasting. As we crowded around that machine, Leo let us peek in as it was mixing and then we watched as he scooped some out with a large white paddle into a container. Then he showed us a large plastic container of fresh kiwi juice that he poured back into the maker to make another batch. Leo mentioned earlier about only using only fresh ingredients in his recipes. You can't get any fresher than fresh kiwi juice. You could even see the seeds in the liquid.
Finally, we sat outside in the shade to start our tasting. The first one up was the pistachio gelato. Before we dug in, Leo told us that the pistachios are directly from Italy and while he could have gone the less expensive route and used California pistachios, he felt that the Italian pistachios were better quality. He even mentioned that to save costs that there were some gelaterias in Italy that would actually use California pistachios as opposed to locally grown nuts. Now that's what I call nutty.
If you love pistachios than the pistachio gelato is a dream come true. The nuts are actually ground before being mixed into the recipe and with every lick; you get a taste of nutty goodness. After consuming this first gelato, Leo actually had us taste the pistachio paste and while giving out a sample, he told us that when the pistachio quality is where it should be, the paste should have the consistency of peanut butter and it certainly did that.
Next was the Kiwi Sorbet, which had a smooth and creamy texture and knowing that it was just made that day was actually cool. As for the flavor, I really liked its hint of tartness. By the way, the difference between a gelato and sorbet is that gelato tends to contain egg yolks and contains less air, which makes it less dense than regular ice creams. Sorbets contain no dairy and are like a creamy ice because it's churned until it's smooth.
Soon after came the Crema de Caffe Gelato. I'm not much of a coffee drinker, but I could see myself starting off the day with a scoop of this as opposed to the liquid version. After the coffee gelato, we were hit with a gelato and sorbet whammy, all in one cup. On the top was a Chocolate-Orange Gelato and it topped a Golden Plum Sorbet. Let me tell you that plum sorbet was so tart; it felt like I was eating a lemon. I actually thought that it was too tart even for me who tends to like that flavor profile, but when eaten with that chocolate-orange gelato, it was a pretty good pairing. The combined tart-sweet-citrus flavors that came as a result of this duo were actually fun to eat.
There were two more to go and the next on the rotation was the mango sorbet. It was sweet, fruity and it really did taste like a fresh mango. It was definitely quite refreshing. Last, but not least, was the Zabaglione Gelato, which was made up of custard cream and Marsala wine. This was the first time I've ever had gelato or any kind of ice cream where wine was one of the ingredients and I have to say that this Zabaglione was a hit with me. With each spoonful, you could taste that wine, but instead of the "bitterness" I was expecting, it added a softer, more rounded fruit flavor to the custard cream.
Overall, this was a great tasting and Leo was a great host and gave us lots of information. I was already a fan of Bulgarini Gelato, but even more so after this tasting.
To see pics, go to:
749 E Altadena Dr.
Altadena, CA 91001