749 E Altadena Dr
Altadena, CA 91001-2302
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Bulgarini Gelato

Neighborhoods: Altadena
Cuisine: Cafe, Italian, Catering

Bulgarini Gelato is a Cafe, Italian, and Catering restaurant where most Menuism users came for fun with friends and paid between $10 and $25.

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  • 6/15/2013

    A Cafe chowhound from South Gate, CA tried it and liked it.

Gayot
Rating:
QB
Price:
$$$$$
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mh2mh photo

mh2mh

 Los Angeles, CA
 

speechless

Bulgarini is orgasm by the scoop. Once you go Bulgarini, you never go back.

My first time was last year when Abby A. organized a tasting there, presented by Leo Bulgarini himself. Those pistachios are flown in from the region in Italy where the best pistachios are grown, and Leo grinds them up. Fruits are from local orchards. All the very very best ingredients.

Please don’t bother me while I’m having my Bulgarini.

pleasurepalate photo

pleasurepalate

 Los Angeles, CA
 

Gelato and Sorbet Tasting at Bulgarini Gelato

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.

Pistachio Gelato at Bulgarini Gelato

Pistachio Gelato

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.

Kiwi Sorbet at Bulgarini Gelato

Kiwi Sorbet

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.

Crema de Caffe Gelato at Bulgarini Gelato

Crema de Caffe Gelato

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.

Chocolate-Orange Gelato & Golden Plum Sorbet at Bulgarini Gelato

Chocolate-Orange Gelato & Golden Plum Sorbet

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.

Mango Sorbet at Bulgarini Gelato

Mango Sorbet

It was sweet, fruity and it really did taste like a fresh mango. It was definitely quite refreshing.

Zabaglione Gelato at Bulgarini Gelato

Zabaglione Gelato

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.

PaulaF photo

PaulaF

 Los Angeles, CA
 

A small shop with a handful of gelato and...

A small shop with a handful of gelato and sorbetto flavors offered each day. It’s at the back of this little strip mall, so it’s a bit hidden from street view.

Banana gelato is surprisingly delicious – you can really taste the banana! It’s like a frozen banana smoothie or shake. The coffee is silky with a balanced level of sweetness. The chocolate and the coconut gelatos were good, but not as stellar as the banana or coffee. The raspberry pepper gelato does not taste peppery at first, but then has a strong, spicy kick at the end; not my type of thing for a gelato. That said, their coffee and banana gelatos have piqued my interest enough to make me want to return.

Banana gelato

Banana gelato is surprisingly delicious – you can really taste the banana! It’s like a frozen banana smoothie or shake.

ellie_eats photo

ellie_eats

 Los Angeles, CA
 

I'll have that flavor, and that one, and that one too...

I was surprised to only find a faded “Bulgarini Gelato” sign as I pulled into the lot, the tiny storefront hidden from direct line of sight. Thank goodness the location wasn’t indicative of the quality of the gelato.

One word that came to mind: delizioso! The flavors are based on what they have acquired, and the flavors I tried were: dark chocolate red pepper (rich dark smooth chocolate with a slow tingly afterburn), papaya (this fragrant serving is as close to a real papaya one can get to!), banana (the real, creamy off white/grayish tinged ball was like eating a thick frozen banana-y milkshake), and the Zabaglione (oooh, creamy goodness that went well with everything). Luckily, I had taken notice of one of the guys behind the counter packing a to-go order, half of the container filled with papaya sorbet, the other half being scooped from a stainless steel tin of some freshly made “rosso arancia”. Knowing “rosso” is red, and “arancia” is orange, I had to try some of the blood orange granita sorbet — and I fell in love… Not too sweet, with the natural sweet’n sour tang of blood orange, I wish I had ordered more of it.

With prices around the the $4 – 6 range for a small (3 scoops), medium (4 scoops) and large (5 scoops), I would say any of the sizes are good for a sampling of what they have. However, be warned that the size of each scoop is about the size of a golf ball — but the good thing is that you can opt to have each scoop be a different flavor (as compared to the gelato places popping up around town which give you only one flavor per large scoop).

They were out of popular pistachio when I went, and the owner was jokingly telling another patron that he wouldn’t get his next shipment in until a month later (which surprised me — but maybe it is true that he was waiting for the next fresh shipment to come with his next trip abroad?). Perhaps I’ll go back next weekend and see if the infamous pistachio has made an appearance…

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