Bulgarini Gelato: Don't forget to ask about the unmarked flavors
It helps to be really persistent to find out what's good at Bulgarini Gelato Artigianale. First, you need to make the commitment to drive several miles north of Pasadena to the sleepy town of Altadena, where Bulgarini shares a small shopping center with Rite-Aid. "It feels like we're on vacation in another city," says my son, and indeed, it feels like we're in Palm Springs or somewhere far outside L.A.
You can order coffee or chocolate gelato right away, as my kids do, or if, like me, you're a gelato detective, you can patiently ask for tastes of three or four unmarked gelati at the rear of the case. If you do, you will be rewarded with a delicately floral white tea/jasmine tea gelato which was the perfect finish our rich Persian dinner at Heidar Baba.
Even better, though, is the raw milk lime gelato that Leo Bulgarini was serving when we were there on Friday evening. He explained that it's safe for anyone because he lightly pasteurizes the raw milk, which he gets at Whole Foods. Apparently the DIY pasteurization is enough to kill the germs, but not the flavor of the fresh milk. In Italy, there are at least half a dozen types of "plain" gelato. There's vanilla, of course, and zabiglione with eggs and marsala, and crema with eggs. But the most pure is fior di latte, the flower of milk. Bulgarini infused his raw milk fior di latte with a hint of lime zest, which brings a subtle citrusy note without overpowering the grassy flavor of the fresh milk. Chocolate orange gelato was also intense and perfectly balanced. I'm not sure how I would feel about a whole cup of the olive oil yogurt flavor -- I love salty flavors but I'm not sure it works with the tart yogurt.
Unless you're my ex-husband or Jonathan Gold, Bulgarini probably isn't very convenient. But raw milk lime gelato isn't found on just any old street corner, so it's well worth the trip.
Bulgarini Gelato Artigianale
749 E. Altadena Dr. (near Lake)