Wonderful Italian Gelato & Pastas - Bulgarini Gelato [Thoughts + Pics]

I remember hearing so much about this little Gelateria in Pasadena making ridiculous, authentic Italian-style Gelato from our old boards. Thanks to @J_L @ipsedixit @Porthos @kevin and many others, I finally made it out there to try it a couple years ago.

With the weather getting warm, it felt like the right time to go back, and this time, try their most famous Gelato flavor that only appears once a year.

This small, cute shop founded by Leo Bulgarini makes small batches of fantastic Gelato, with the flavors changing almost every day, depending on what he can source fresh that day.

They are also kind enough to let us try free samples of any flavor we want. They were especially kind, letting us try every single flavor on the menu. :slight_smile:

Vaniglia (Vanilla) Gelato:

This sounds like the most boring flavor possible, but you can taste the real Vanilla Bean in this Gelato! After having Bulgarini’s Gelato, I really prefer it to standard Ice Cream. Less fat, less sugar, just pure, clean flavors. The Vanilla is just fragrant and so good! :slight_smile:

Creme Di Caffe (Coffee Cream):

Is like pure shots of espresso chilled and sweetened (slightly). It’s the best chilled Coffee dessert I’ve tasted in the last few months.

Nocciola (Hazelnut) Gelato:

Leo Bulgarini’s Nut-based Gelatos are probably his strongest. You can taste pure Hazelnuts freshly roasted and ground up in this Gelato. I just bought Hazelnuts recently and toasted some at home for a dinner, and “yes,” it was most definitely ground-up, real Hazelnuts in this concoction!

It’s like PURE Hazelnut Love. Probably my favorite (tied with Vanilla)! :heart:

Arancia Rossa (Blood Orange) Granita:

Bulgarini’s Granitas and Sorbets are also out of this world. For the Blood Orange Granita, he says it best: Just fresh Blood Oranges from local farmers, a little Sugar, Chilled. It was like eating frozen Blood Oranges slightly sweetened (not overly so), aromatic, citrusy, awesome.

Cioccolato All’ Arancia (Chocolate Orange) Gelato:

Mr. Bulgarini uses Valrhona Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa, and it’s RIDICULOUS! I’ve never tasted something so insanely deep, truly chocolaty, bitter, and pure. The Orange (and Orange Zest) he adds to it gives it this awesome counterpoint when you take each bite. Really wonderful stuff.

I found the magic being combining half of the Vanilla Bean Gelato with this Dark Chocolate Orange… WOW! :blush:

Persimmon Gelato:

The Persimmon Gelato was interesting. It was the sweetest Gelato he had that day, and it was fruity, but the essence of “Persimmon” didn’t seem to stand out in that particular flavor. It was good, but not something I felt like I wanted to order.

Stracciatella (Chocolate Chip) Gelato:

Is pretty nice. I thought it might just be Vanilla with some Chocolate Chips in it, but actually it’s a pure Milk-based flavor, creamy, delicate mixed with the slight crunch of chopped up Chocolate Chips.

Pistacchio (Pistachio) Gelato:

And the rarest Gelato at Bulgarini, I remember hearing about this from @J_L years ago: Leo Bulgarini sources his Pistachios from Sicily, Italy, unhappy with the quality of the Pistachios he’s found locally. As a result, his Pistachio Gelato is only available once a year, when he gets in a fresh batch to his standards. He says they’ll have it for about another 3 - 4 weeks and then it’s gone.

The Pistachio Gelato is pretty absurd: It does taste like pure ground-up Pistachios, and you can even see the flecks and chunks of Pistachio in the Gelato if you examine it up close. I tried it twice over the past 2 weeks, and the first batch I tried was slightly sweeter, while the batch today was a touch saltier (in a pleasant way), but still sweet and nutty. Wonderful. :slight_smile:

Bulgarini also sells handmade fresh Pasta out of their refrigerated case and a variety of Italian Cheeses.

Bulgarini Gelato
749 E. Altadena Drive
Altadena, CA 91001
Tel: (626) 791-6174

http://bulgarinigelato.com/index.php

Update 2:

While Bulgarini makes outstanding Italian Gelato, thanks to @J_L @ipsedixit @Porthos @kevin @paranoidgarliclover, I found out they make fresh Pasta as well! We couldn’t wait to try it.

It seems Leo Bulgarini usually makes two types of sauces from scratch (in small batches), and once it sells out it’s gone until he can make a new batch.

Pappardelle al Pesto:

I wasn’t sure if this excellent Gelato maker could also make great Pastas.

Yup. He definitely can! :slight_smile:

The Handmade Pappardelle was perfectly cooked, al dente, having a just the right chew, and still soft and delicate. The Handmade Pesto Sauce exuded this awesome nutty, earthy and herbally quality from the Pine Nuts and Basil. The touch of Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese was perfect.

In terms of all the Pestos we tried on this journey, this was the most rustic and earthy. Bulgarini’s Pappardelle is $20, but it’s also about 300% of the portion of Knead and Co.! It was very generous and delicious!

Spaghettini al Ripasata:

Leo mentions that for today’s red sauce, he decided to make a sauce he enjoyed in Rome, taking 6 hours to make(!), which is an intensely concentrated sauce of Tomatoes, Garlic and Herbs.

It sounds simple, but like the best of his Gelato, it is an awesome distillation of pure Tomato essence and fragrant Garlic. It is probably one of the best Tomato Sauces (non-meat) I’ve had in a long time. The Spaghettini pasta is very thin and delicate, so it’s soft (in a good way).

Excellent! :slight_smile:

We finished with: Pera Sorbetto (Pear Sorbet):

Leo seemed particularly happy that we were able to try his Pear Sorbet. It takes him 2 WEEKS to make a batch, so I’m glad we made it out there to try it.

And seriously, I’ve never had Pear Sorbet like this before! :astonished: It has a gorgeous, deep, pure Pear essence, and an almost fermented quality (in a great way). It’s ridiculous how good this is! :heart:

I said it once, but I have to say it again: Thanks so much to @J_L @ipsedixit @Porthos @kevin @paranoidgarliclover @Novelli and everyone else who recommended Bulgarini on our old board and here. Great Pasta and fantastic Gelato! (And plenty of free parking.)

Bulgarini Gelato
749 E. Altadena Drive
Altadena, CA 91001
Tel: (626) 791-6174

http://bulgarinigelato.com/index.php

Update 3:

With the nice warm weather, it was time to make the trek again. Time for some awesome Bulgarini Gelato! :slight_smile:

Fettucine Bolognese:

We were in luck: Leo Bulgarini had made a fresh batch of his Bolognese Sauce. It takes over 4 hours for him to make his Bolognese from scratch and I was pretty excited to try it.

He doesn’t normally make Tagliatelle Pasta, so it was recommended to pair it with his Homemade Fettucine Pasta. It was perfectly al dente, wonderful mouthfeel, and his Bolognese Sauce was delicious! :slight_smile: There’s a real cooked-down, slow-cooked taste of savoriness from the Pork, Tomatoes, with backnotes of slow-cooked Carrots and Onions. Just a beautiful sauce and delicious pasta! :slight_smile:

Fragola Sorbetto (Strawberry Sorbet):

For those that don’t know, Leo Bulgarini obsesses over making fine Italian Gelato and Sorbet. Hearing @J_L @ipsedixit and many others talk about their experiences with Mr. Bulgarini and it’s apparent he is a devoted specialist to his craft.

He hand picks and is very particular about his ingredients. When we arrived he had a BUNCH of fresh Apricots and Peaches laid out, hand picked and ready to be made into a fresh batch of Gelato / Sorbet.

For the Strawberry Sorbet, WOW! It literally tastes like fresh, sweet, bright Strawberries (in season) distilled down into a cool, chilled cup of Awesome! It’s sweet, fragrant the way that only Fresh Farmers Market Strawberries are fragrant, and PERFECT for this hot weather! :blush:

Nocciola (Hazelnut) Gelato:

I love Bulgarini’s rare, fresh Italian Pistachio Gelato, but I’d argue his Hazelnut Gelato is just as good! Seriously, it’s like PURE HAZELNUTS ground into a fine, gorgeous nutty Gelato. Perfect! :heart:

Cioccolato Di Firenze al Sale (Florentine Chocolate with Salt):

In a study of Chocolate, Leo Bulgarini decides to make another awesome Chocolate Gelato, this time, Florentine Chocolate with Salt, and it tastes totally different from the amazing Cioccolato All’ Arancia (Chocolate Orange) Gelato which focuses on the Valrhona Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa profile.

This is wonderful, bitter, chocolatey and a perfect pairing with the nutty Hazelnut! :slight_smile:

One other thing I really appreciate about Bulgarini is that unlike Ice Cream, his Gelato is less fat, tastes lighter, is more delicate and is a pure distillation of awesome natural flavors! I can’t wait to see what he does with fresh local farm Peaches.

Bulgarini Gelato
749 E. Altadena Drive
Altadena, CA 91001
Tel: (626) 791-6174

http://bulgarinigelato.com/index.php

Update 3:

With the recent heat wave that made it feel like Summer, it set about an urge to head over to Bulgarini Gelato again. :wink:

Gelato Maestro, Owner and Pasta Maker Extraordinaire, Leo Bulgarini, has now started Friday & Saturday Dinners(!). Curious and excited to see what this gifted Gelato Master could also cook up for a dinner, we stopped in.

Handmade Focaccia:

As we sat down, and placed our order for his dinner course, he started us off with… Handmade Focaccia. Because this craftsman who is so obsessive about delivering the best ingredients will only make his famous Pistachio Gelato when he can source a particular type of Pistachio from Italy (and he flies out to Italy personally to make sure of the quality), of course he makes his own Focaccia Bread. It’s not even surprising at this point. :wink: :smile:

And he had just finished making a batch, and it is glorious!

This insanely delicious Handmade Bread, fresh-baked out of the oven (we lucked out and showed up when he just finished up a batch), it’s got this wonderful crust giving way to a pillowy center, topped with quality (deeply fragrant) Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a bit of Sea Salt.

It disappeared in less than a minute and we had to ask for seconds. :sweat_smile:

Gnocchi with Pesto Sauce:

Leo Bulgarini’s Handmade Gnocchi are little clouds of awesome - so impossibly light, delicate - and his Housemade Pesto is so vibrant and beautifully herbal. I could eat this everyday.

Agnello Scottadito (Slow Roasted Lamb Chops):

These were Slow-Roasted Lamb Chops, arriving cooked through, but since it’s slow-roasted it’s tender and bursting with flavor, redolent of Garlic and Rosemary. It has a familiar taste, but very well executed and delicious.

Slow-Roasted Garlic Potatoes:

A stunning example of great roasting, these morsels of Potato were cooked to the point of being beyond fork tender, yet slightly crisped on certain edges for a satisfying crunch, and infused with the greatness that is Slow-Roasted Garlic. :slight_smile:

Cioccolato All’ Arancia (Chocolate Orange) Gelato:

One of the favorites from my early visits, this is a beautiful play of Valrhona Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa - so deep and bitter and fragrant - against the zestiness of bright Orange citrus.

Tiramisu Gelato:

And of course Leo’s Tiramisu uses his own fresh-brewed Espresso, Mascarpone and Coca Powder to create what tastes like the ultimate distillation of Tiramisu into Gelato form (but without the excessive sugar in some versions of this dessert).

It is what you’d want a chilled, mature Tiramisu to be (this was completely sold out on our follow-up visit).

Nocciola (Hazelnut) Gelato:

To understand the greatness of Bulgarini is to try one of their Nut-based Gelato. Leo Bulgarini distills what tastes like a metric ton of Hazelnuts, ground down and turned into a chilled dessert that tastes more like Roasted Hazelnuts than Hazelnuts themselves. :smile:

It is truly that good and probably my favorite Gelato here. :heart:

The heat wave continued in Southern California, so what else could we do but come back the next night. :stuck_out_tongue:

Handmade Focaccia:

Once again wonderful, although slightly cooled. As an FYI, Leo says he’ll try and make his Focaccia on Friday and Saturday evenings around 6 - 7 p.m. Call ahead and plan your visit for when it comes out of the oven! :grin:

Tagliatelle al Sugo di Carne:

While Bulgarini’s Pesto elicits happiness and joy, his 6-hour, slow-stewed Sugo di Carne (Meat Sauce) might be even better. There’s something deeply satisfying with every bite that we took; you could taste the love and care with every bite of the Handmade Tagliatelle Pasta and the meaty Sauce.

Mascarpone Merlot Gelato:

In another example of lucid understanding of outstanding flavor combinations, Leo Bulgarini is currently featuring a Mascarpone Gelato infused with an Italian Merlot Wine(!). And it works so well. The Merlot is there, but never overpowering the creamy, chilled Mascarpone.

Fragola Sorbetto (Strawberry Sorbet):

Leo’s ultimate distillation of local Farmers Market Strawberries, it tastes like bright Spring… that lilting aroma of in-season, ripe Strawberries that brings a smile to your face. Sweetness with a touch of tart, it is another masterpiece. :heart:

Crema di Limone Gelato:

This tastes like all the brightness of Lemon without the excessive sourness. It is balanced, creamy and a citrus-lover’s dream.

Pistacchio (Pistachio) Gelato:

The most famous and hardest to find Gelato from Bulgarini, there is a reason why it’s so beloved. From the first bite, you suddenly gain that clarity and understanding of why Leo Bulgarini would only offer this when he found the right kind of Pistachios from Italy.

Stunningly beautiful, nutty, and simply outstanding: Roasted Pistachios ground into creamy, chilled Gelato form. There’s probably more Pistachios than there is Milk.

Bulgarini Gelato is a wonderful hole-in-the-wall that continues to surprise and bring delight with each scoop of the best Gelato we’ve ever had, with each bite of their amazing Handmade Pastas, and now their new Dinner Service. Leo Bulgarini talks about serving a wonderful Italian Slow-Roasted Short Rib, and rotating in a Guanciale recipe, along with Hawaiian Ahi Tuna and other dishes.

We will certainly be back to try his other offerings.

Note: Be sure to call ahead to confirm they are open (their hours can sometimes vary).

Bulgarini Gelato
749 E. Altadena Drive
Altadena, CA 91001
Tel: (626) 791-6174

http://bulgarinigelato.com/index.php

Update 4: Incredible Lasagna (Special), Italian Roasted Chestnuts, Mountain Pear with Fennel Gelato and more!
http://foodtalkcentral.com/t/wonderful-italian-gelato-pastas-bulgarini-gelato-pics-words/2978/115?u=chowseeker1999

9 Likes

Awesome report. As always.

Can’t wait until they start doing movie nights again.

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Those are fightin words!

Great report again @Chowseeker1999

+1

I think vanilla in general is a totally underrated flavor, and especially as it comes to gelato.

It takes quite the technical artisan to craft a vanilla gelato that tastes of actual (real life!) vanilla, and not just like sweet cream (or milk). And, yes, there is a difference between sweet dairy products and real vanilla.

3 Likes

Try the pasta next time, too. It’s pretty good sh*t.

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+2. absurd. By far my favorite flavor of Ice creams and milk shakes

Thanks @ipsedixit. Wow, I didn’t know they had movie nights. Do they show… classic Italian cinema on a projection screen or something? Any special desserts / offerings on those nights?

Thanks.

Hi @A5KOBE @ipsedixit @Nemroz,

Oh for sure I love Vanilla as well. :slight_smile: I was just trying to convey what many might overlook and think when thinking of “Vanilla”.

Bulgarini’s Vanilla Gelato is SO good! It’s like what @ipsedixit describes. Definitely a big difference from generic sweet dairy products called “Vanilla” and Bulgarini’s version. I’m craving it again…

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Movie night details.

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note to self, go get some pistachio gelato ASAP

Oh nice! Jazz Music. How are the musicians they’ve gotten there? Any good acts?

Well, the gelato is fabulous!

1 Like

Update 2:

While Bulgarini makes outstanding Italian Gelato, thanks to @J_L @ipsedixit @Porthos @kevin @paranoidgarliclover, I found out they make fresh Pasta as well! We couldn’t wait to try it.

It seems Leo Bulgarini usually makes two types of sauces from scratch (in small batches), and once it sells out it’s gone until he can make a new batch.

Pappardelle al Pesto:

I wasn’t sure if this excellent Gelato maker could also make great Pastas.

Yup. He definitely can! :slight_smile:

The Handmade Pappardelle was perfectly cooked, al dente, having a just the right chew, and still soft and delicate. The Handmade Pesto Sauce exuded this awesome nutty, earthy and herbally quality from the Pine Nuts and Basil. The touch of Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese was perfect.

In terms of all the Pestos we tried on this journey, this was the most rustic and earthy. Bulgarini’s Pappardelle is $20, but it’s also about 300% of the portion of Knead and Co.! It was very generous and delicious!

Spaghettini al Ripasata:

Leo mentions that for today’s red sauce, he decided to make a sauce he enjoyed in Rome, taking 6 hours to make(!), which is an intensely concentrated sauce of Tomatoes, Garlic and Herbs.

It sounds simple, but like the best of his Gelato, it is an awesome distillation of pure Tomato essence and fragrant Garlic. It is probably one of the best Tomato Sauces (non-meat) I’ve had in a long time. The Spaghettini pasta is very thin and delicate, so it’s soft (in a good way).

Excellent! :slight_smile:

We finished with: Pera Sorbetto (Pear Sorbet):

Leo seemed particularly happy that we were able to try his Pear Sorbet. It takes him 2 WEEKS to make a batch, so I’m glad we made it out there to try it.

And seriously, I’ve never had Pear Sorbet like this before! :astonished: It has a gorgeous, deep, pure Pear essence, and an almost fermented quality (in a great way). It’s ridiculous how good this is! :heart:

Creme Di Caffe (Coffee Cream):

And like before, some amazing Coffee Cream Gelato! So fragrant of the fresh pulled coffee from the espresso machine behind the counter.

I said it once, but I have to say it again: Thanks so much to @J_L @ipsedixit @Porthos @kevin @paranoidgarliclover @Novelli and everyone else who recommended Bulgarini on our old board and here. Great Pasta and fantastic Gelato! (And plenty of free parking.)

Bulgarini Gelato
749 E. Altadena Drive
Altadena, CA 91001
Tel: (626) 791-6174

http://bulgarinigelato.com/index.php

6 Likes

I didn’t get to try the pesto! Agree that the tomato sauce is something very special.

Update 3:

With the nice warm weather, it was time to make the trek again. Time for some awesome Bulgarini Gelato! :slight_smile:

Fettucine Bolognese:

We were in luck: Leo Bulgarini had made a fresh batch of his Bolognese Sauce. It takes over 4 hours for him to make his Bolognese from scratch and I was pretty excited to try it.

He doesn’t normally make Tagliatelle Pasta, so it was recommended to pair it with his Homemade Fettucine Pasta. It was perfectly al dente, wonderful mouthfeel, and his Bolognese Sauce was delicious! :slight_smile: There’s a real cooked-down, slow-cooked taste of savoriness from the Pork, Tomatoes, with backnotes of slow-cooked Carrots and Onions. Just a beautiful sauce and delicious pasta! :slight_smile: @Novelli can see how this compares with other versions around the city. :slight_smile:

Fragola Sorbetto (Strawberry Sorbet):

For those that don’t know, Leo Bulgarini obsesses over making fine Italian Gelato and Sorbet. Hearing @J_L @ipsedixit and many others talk about their experiences with Mr. Bulgarini and it’s apparent he is a devoted specialist to his craft.

He hand picks and is very particular about his ingredients. When we arrived he had a BUNCH of fresh Apricots and Peaches laid out, hand picked and ready to be made into a fresh batch of Gelato / Sorbet.

For the Strawberry Sorbet, WOW! It literally tastes like fresh, sweet, bright Strawberries (in season) distilled down into a cool, chilled cup of Awesome! It’s sweet, fragrant the way that only Fresh Farmers Market Strawberries are fragrant, and PERFECT for this hot weather! :blush:

Nocciola (Hazelnut) Gelato:

I love Bulgarini’s rare, fresh Italian Pistachio Gelato, but I’d argue his Hazelnut Gelato is just as good! Seriously, it’s like PURE HAZELNUTS ground into a fine, gorgeous nutty Gelato. Perfect! :heart:

Cioccolato Di Firenze al Sale (Florentine Chocolate with Salt):

In a study of Chocolate, Leo Bulgarini decides to make another awesome Chocolate Gelato, this time, Florentine Chocolate with Salt, and it tastes totally different from the amazing Cioccolato All’ Arancia (Chocolate Orange) Gelato which focuses on the Valrhona Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa profile.

This is wonderful, bitter, chocolatey and a perfect pairing with the nutty Hazelnut! :slight_smile:

One other thing I really appreciate about Bulgarini is that unlike Ice Cream, his Gelato is less fat, tastes lighter, is more delicate and is a pure distillation of awesome natural flavors! I can’t wait to see what he does with fresh local farm Peaches.

Bulgarini Gelato
749 E. Altadena Drive
Altadena, CA 91001
Tel: (626) 791-6174

http://bulgarinigelato.com/index.php

6 Likes

He seems incredibly passionate about his gelato & sorbet, and must love your appreciation for how it’s made. Your description of that 6 hour red sauce is awesome.

Hi @TheCookie,

Yah Leo Bulgarini is definitely passionate about his Gelato and Sorbet. :slight_smile: Have you tried it yet? Definitely give it a try if you haven’t.

Not yet. But, I owe my sister in Altadena a visit. She says she’s been going for years. That will be our definite go to!

2 Likes

If you go see if you can make movie night.

That sounds lovely. I sent info to my sis’. For once we can do something fun in her 'hood. I’ll keep you guys posted.