LOL! No no, I just hope you get to try more delicious eats around L.A.
And I you for it.
sounds cool - what is the non-profit?
feel free to private message me if you don’t care to share it publicly at this time
Focaccia, drizzled with olive oil
Nice, denser than the usual prep. Olive oil surprisingly made it feel lighter.
Gnocchi al Pesto
Perfect, pillowy texture. The pesto was very good, but I’m not sure if I’m sold on this over Felix’s take on it.
Tagliatelle al sugo di pomodoro
Had some good bite to it, tempered by the sharp, focused tomato sauce.
Spaghettini alla ricotta
Lightly funky, cut deftly with the black pepper. Excellent.
Business was pretty slow when we came in, so Leo took the opportunity to expound on his philosophy of food, which included a story about one of his customers teaching him how to make tea (in exchange for a bunch of gelato, naturally). He explained that most places steep green tea at too high a temperature, causing it to burn and taste bitter. Indeed, trying Leo’s tea, you will notice that it has an extremely pure, clean flavor, and a much brighter green color than usual. Leo also told us about a special preparation of green tea gelato that he makes, infused with jasmine and mint (the part with the mint apparently has to be handled by two people, due to some of the quick reactions!), and drizzled with a nigori sake. I look forward to trying it.
Slow cooked prime rib in red wine
So tender it was falling apart, these hunks of beef were clearly treated with just the right kind of red wine to bring out the purest flavor of the meat in contrast. Leo’s background as a sommelier definitely shows.
No pictures of the gelato, unfortunately. Needless to say it was fantastic as always. I look forward to trying the 7(!) varieties of peach that Leo plans to use when the season rolls around.
Glad you liked the pastas! And wow about Leo’s Green Tea Gelato! That sounds amazing (and I can’t wait to try it).
That’s really cool that he’s doing a Prime Rib this past week. I wonder what next week will be.
After having experienced some of the Best Bites of 2017 (or Ever) on our recent trip up north, I felt like I wanted to be comforted by some of our local Best Bites and great food we have in the City of Angels. In a 3 part exploration, our faith was restored, and we had 3 fantastic meals at some of L.A.'s most wonderful gems!
Part 1 started at Bulgarini Gelato…
(We’ve also included a prior visit to our trip up north here.)
We called ahead to make sure our arrival would coincide with a fresh batch of Leo Bulgarini’s fresh Handmade Focaccia…
Arriving nice and warm (just out of the oven a little while ago), it’s got this nice slight toasty crunch on the exterior, giving way to fluffy, pillowy soft interior! This is better than Felix’s Focaccia, just not as pretty looking, but the flavor! So good!
Spaghettini al Ricotta Toscana:
This was the 3rd time we had this dish: Leo Bulgarini has been sourcing some very fresh Ricotta Toscana, and has been excitedly making it for his Pasta and other creations.
It seems simple, but the absolute freshness and purity of this Ricotta from Tuscany is stunning. It tastes nothing like the typical “Ricotta” you get at many places. Delicious!
Red C 2014 Allan Nelson Vineyard - Sauvignon Blanc (Dry Creek Valley):
Leo Bulgarini used to be a Sommelier, so it’s not surprising he has a variety of Wines he has prepared to pair with his food and Gelato. Leo poured us a glass of this Red C 2014 Allan Nelson Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, and it was a fantastic pairing with this Spaghettini with the Tuscan Ricotta.
We had a friend who had never tried Bulgarini’s Handmade Pastas, so we decided we had to correct that omission as soon as possible.
Linguine al Pesto:
It is still astounding how good Leo Bulgarini’s Handmade Pastas are. The Handmade Linguine combined with his amazing fragrant Pesto were perfect again. Nice al dente, firm, but pliant, this was so good!
Strozzapretti al Pomodoro Fresco:
We were happy to see Leo making a new Handmade Pasta on this visit! He was making a Strozzapretti Pasta by hand, and also debuted his Pomodoro Fresco Sauce.
The first bite… a toothsome chew, a playful, fun Pasta shape, and that Pomodoro Fresco Sauce! It’s so richly tomatoey, but has that long cooked taste and the hint of Basil and Garlic… this is just top notch Pasta, hidden inside a tiny Gelateria!
Fragola (Strawberry) Gelato:
So much pure Strawberry flavor. This was amazing!
Vaniglia (Vanilla) Gelato:
Bulgarini has spoiled me for Vanilla. The Vanilla is so pure, so clean, not overly sweet, nor masked by excessive fat / cream.
Pistacchio (Pistachio) Gelato:
The most famous Gelato from Bulgarini, it was as sublime as always. I’m going to be sad when it’s gone for the year.
Pesca (Peach) Gelato:
We had just seen pallets of fresh Peaches that Leo was making into his Peach Gelato on our last visit, and here it was, ready to eat on this visit. If you want pure Peach fruit and essence, distilled into a cool, chilled form, this is it!
After having such a wonderful meal at La Ciccia with its stunning Pastas, we wanted to get something wonderful locally, so we called up Bulgarini Gelato and arranged for one of their Dinners.
This was wild. Besides the fact that this Gelato tasted like the most amazing Banana Gelato you’ve ever had, and tasted of pure, honest Banana fruit(!), Leo mentioned that he wanted us to just set our tastebuds a bit, before our first course. We were intrigued.
Then he paired it with this:
2015 Nova Serra Greco di Tufo:
This was a dry White Wine and Leo proceeded to pour this over the Banana Gelato. We all took a bite…
Seriously. If you’ve ever thought you had a good “wine pairing,” you might need to try Leo Bulgarini’s pairings with his Handmade Gelato. This was stunning! The Banana Gelato he had was transformed and the flavors went off in another tangent that was so delicious!
We were all stunned (including a wine aficionado friend of mine who joined us this evening).
Handmade Pumpkin Gnocchi in Butter Sauce:
And for this evening, Leo debuted a new Handmade Pumpkin Gnocchi he had just finished making this week! He explained that Pumpkin contains so much water that it took a lot of work to squeeze out the excess to make his Pumpkin Gnocchi. It was made with no Potato in it.
Taking a bite: Pillowy-soft, not doughy or rubbery at all. They were so light and airy, and redolent of Pumpkin, but not overwhelming. The Butter Sauce was perfect.
Another friend of ours who joined us commented she had tasted a Pumpkin Gnocchi at Spago last year, and said this Handmade Pumpkin Gnocchi from Leo Bulgarini was “so much better. It’s really no comparison.”
These were outstanding!
Elephant Heart Plum Sorbetto (Sorbet):
A balanced, sweet and tart fruit, the Elephant Heart Plum was one of 3 different types of Plum Sorbet that Leo featured this week(!). A refreshing palette cleanser before our next course.
Gnocchi al Pesto:
Then Leo brought out his regular Handmade Potato Gnocchi that he normally makes each week, paired with his amazing Pesto Sauce.
The contrast between the 2 Gnocchi were fantastic. While this one is “just” his standard Gnocchi, like the Pumpkin, it’s hard to believe these are Gnocchi the way we’ve had them in many local restaurants: Leo’s were still pillowy, airy creations, and the Housemade Pesto was even more aromatic this evening… notes of Basil and Pine Nuts, good quality Olive Oil, just a great Pesto Sauce.
Leo brought out his Yogurt Gelato next, which had a nice tang, that was pretty fantastic in Gelato form. Then another pairing…
2014 Sergio Mottura Latour a Civitella:
Which Leo poured over the Yogurt Gelato:
Really, this pairing was even better than the last one. Not only did it match his Handmade Yogurt Gelato, but both the Wine and the Gelato complemented each other and transformed into something different and even tastier! It’s crazy how good Leo is at so many things.
Slow Roasted Beef Short Rib:
This gorgeous looking slab of Beef Short Rib appears. Leo Bulgarini casually mentions that he’s been roasting this in the back of his Gelato shop for 3.5 hours or so, and we are excited to try it.
It is fork tender (no knife required), and gently taking a bite…
A beautiful, deep, beefy and Red Wine essence comes through in every bite. Something that’s only achieved by time and slow-roasting. No advanced cooking techniques here. Just old-school cooking, done right. It is SO DELICIOUS!
Cannoli Ricotta Romana:
And then to finish things off, Mr. Bulgarini presents us with his Handmade Cannoli Dessert. Of course he makes his own Cannoli as well. He uses a very fresh Ricotta he just got in from Rome, that he excitedly tells us about, how he met the dairy farmer who made it.
This Cannoli tastes like nothing I’ve ever had before, the Ricotta is lightly sweet, so creamy and smooth, and fresh Lemon Zest Leo added on elevates this to another level.
We decided to share a few things from his Gelato case - how could we not?! - even though we were so stuffed…
Blood Orange Granita:
This was stunning. A gorgeous, enticing aroma of citrus hits your senses with every bite! So pure, like Blood Oranges turned into liquid ice.
John W Plum Sorbetto (Sorbet):
This was another of the 3 Plum Sorbets that Leo was featuring this week. The John W Plum Sorbet was the sweetest of the 3, with a flowery Plum note in each bite. Wonderful!
At some point, it gets crazy thinking about just how talented Leo Bulgarini is. He makes the best Gelato we’ve ever had, and it puts to shame other iced creations (I can’t eat other Gelato or Ice Cream any more (well except Shunji’s Truffle Ice Cream) because Bulgarini’s Gelato is such a pure distillation of that specific ingredient, honest and true flavors.
He makes outstanding Handmade Pastas and beautiful Pasta Sauces, and he cooks them perfectly each time.
He’s a Sommelier, and his Wine & Gelato Pairings are so insane, I can’t even believe this isn’t a category of food somehow (forget Beer Float, you have to try Bulgarini’s Wine & Gelato!).
And he makes Handmade Focaccia Bread that is outstanding, Handmade Cannoli, and he prepares some Slow-Roasted Meats via Italy in the back of his Gelato Shop on Friday & Saturdays.
Note: Be sure to call ahead to confirm they are open (their hours can sometimes vary).
Note 2: Reservations are recommended for the Friday & Saturday evening Dinners (featured meat dishes).
749 E. Altadena Drive
Altadena, CA 91001
Tel: (626) 791-6174
Thanks, @Chowseeker1999! I adore this place, but it’s just inconvenient for me to get to. But with temperatures rising in the coming week, it may be time to plan a return trip. Did I miss pistachio season?
Yes, it’s always good for some Bulgarini Gelato, especially with the heat wave. Bulgarini still has the Pistachio Gelato this week.
I need some of that yogurt gelato in my life.
Leo takes the concept of wine pairing to another whole new dimension, right?! Did he do the IPA/gelato pairing with you?
I find myself overusing the word ‘passionate’ to describe the man’s drive for exalting and exciting the tastebuds, but really there are few other words to convey the way he approaches food. Bulgarini Gelato is the most authentic Italian place in all Southern California right now, bar none.
Ooh! IPA / Gelato pairing? No, we didn’t get that. I’ll be sure to ask about next time, thanks again for the tip!
I was there yesterday and took half of the larger to-go container to go (thanks, @J_L, for informing us about the need for a cooler!). So, AFAIK, it’s still on.
@Chowseeker1999: I was going to post a pic of the pumpkin gnocchi, but you beat me to it! Had it yesterday (when I took my aunt and uncle). Loved the gnocchi, although I could’ve used a touch more salt (but otherwise thought it was lovely). My uncle was so happy w/ the meat sauce that he sopped up 2 plates worth of the excess sauce w/ the focaccia.
Leo gave me a sample of the tart plum and the “well-balanced” plum. My palate isn’t quite developed enough to detect a huge difference btw the two; I thought they were both great.
Wow - that is high praise. Felix’s is sooo good.
Never had anything but Gelato at Bulgriini.
Nice! So glad you got a chance to try it, and glad your uncle and aunt liked Leo’s pastas as well).
Nice on the Pistachio Gelato. Did you try any other flavors yesterday?
Yah, I like Felix’s version as well. Definitely try their pastas next time if you get a chance. Just make sure Leo is there and ask him for the Ripasata, his Ragu or Pesto to start.
Is there a specific time that you suggest going to ensure maximum quality and options?
I have gone there, mostly, after Chinese dinner in SGV, and arrive 8 or after. I don’t think, at those times, I ever saw someone with what I might call "Senior Thinking" working at the counter. Perhaps he is in the back making all those wonderful noodles and sauces.
Just the plums. SO delicious. The thing that I love about his gelato is that you feel like you’re really biting into the nut, fruit, whatever. Such intense and concentrated flavors; I can only eat a few spoonfuls at a time.
@attran99: if you haven’t tried the hazelnut, I think it’s a fantastic flavor, as well.
Thanks, @paranoidgarliclover! I’m planning a trip this Friday.
I’d call ahead and ask if he’s there. We have been once or twice when he was in the back (and came out after we asked). If you want to go for pastas, definitely call ahead before your drive and arrange a time to ensure Leo is there. He’s usually there on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays.
Mention you’re going for the Pastas (and ask if he can make the Focaccia) and you should be set.
Yes! I love the Hazenut as well.