Before every neighborhood boasted its own gelato shop, before bacon and Fernet-Branca began showing up in frozen treats, before premium ice cream became ultra-premium, there was Al Gelato. This friendly neighborhood cafe on the southern edge of Beverly Hills (i.e. the "wrong side of the tracks" by westside standards) serves a range of savory Italian fare, but the best reasons to come here are the gelato and the desserts.
This is traditional gelato: creamy, even a bit gummy, without any newfangled flavors like red velvet. Respect for tradition, however, doesn't mean Al Gelato lacks panache.
Among their 25 or so flavors, Al Gelato makes a lovely creme brûlée, evoking all at once the bitterness of that dessert's burnt sugar crust and the creamy custard beneath.
The rich, deep red cabernet sorbet is a force to be reckoned with, and the pale green apple sorbet, with just a hint of tartness, is a standout. The old standby, coffee-crunch, is also a standout.
Instead of rum raisin, by now a fairly common flavor, Al Gelato makes wine raisin, a more mellow, less emphatically alcoholic take on the booze and dairy meme.
If you order a scoop of gelato for eating while you're at the cafe, you get your choice of a dollop of whipped cream or a mini-scoop of a second flavor on top.
Aside from the cold frozen treats, Al Gelato is known for their baked goods: towering apple pie, miniature cinnamon buns, sesame cookies and flaky sfogliatelle filled with citrus-tinged ricotta. It's earned plenty of acclaim, deservedly so, for its desserts.
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What people may not know about Al Gelato is that it also makes one of the best coffee granitas in town. It's more of a parfait, really, with layers of coffee-soaked shaved ice competing with sweet cream. Heaven.
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