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Food & Drink

Best Gelato Los Angeles 2008 

Bulgarini Gelato

Leo Bulgarini is the wrong guy to mouth off to the day after his beloved AS Roma squad drops a game to Genoa or Inter Milan, and I suspect he cheered the bankruptcy of AIG as cosmic revenge for its sponsorship of the hated Manchester U. His gelati are labeled only in Italian, and he is not above correcting an 8-year-old on her faulty pronunciation of pistacchio or stracciatella. His standards are so famously strict that he's been known to pull his delicious sorbetti from the menus of restaurants and the freezer cases of retailers that in one way or another failed to come up to his standards. A big photograph on the wall of his Altadena shop shows him making an obscene Italian gesture to a giant Sicilian ice cream plant. But it cannot be denied: Bulgarini is an artist, a master of smooth textures, an ace at coaxing the maximum flavor from a rare-breed plum or a ripe peach, an artisanal dark chocolate or an especially fragrant Sicilian pistachio he himself smuggles from Italy. When the evenings are warm, he screens Italian movies on Saturdays on the patio outside his shop. And he probably pulls the best espresso shot in the San Gabriel Valley, when he's in the mood, a thick, syrupy thimbleful made with an antique Italian machine. If you don't believe me, ask him yourself.

—Jonathan Gold

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