During the 1980s, Los Angeles witnessed a brief gelato renaissance (anyone else remember Gelato per Tutti?) that sadly gave way to other faddish, supposedly healthier frozen dessert trends. We've evolved to the point where Pinkberry and its spawn can peacefully co-exist with artisan ice creams and gelati. It is in this climate that Gelato Bar is planning its expansion, bringing its top notch gelati and serious coffee across the hill from Studio City to Los Feliz.
Though co-owner Gail Silverton is content being Valley-based, many fans who taste the handcrafted Italian ice creams at Gelato Bar on Tujunga Avenue and at events when they venture out to other parts of town will welcome this news. "'When are you going to come out of the Valley?'" is a question Silverton and her husband/business partner Joel Gutman often hear, she says. "People do not want to travel to the Valley. We've been playing with the idea of going to the other side."
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So when the Hollywood Gelato Company building on Hillhurst just north of Franklin became available, it was an ideal confluence of factors, both practical and symbolic. "We like the Hillhurst area," Silverton explains, noting that both the Gelato Bar's current North Hollywood building and the Hillhurst locale housed Italian delis and flower shops in earlier incarnations. "When I first went to see the spot, I just felt like I'm in a little neighborhood family business. It's what I want Gelato Bar to be." Plus Silverton and Gutman only have one car (they rely on bike and Vespa as their other means of transportation), so need both businesses to be conveniently accessible to each other.
The new location, with its larger kitchen area, also gives them the option of producing the gelato on-site instead of in resident gelato master Alessandro Fontana's Burbank facility. A relatively heavy pedestrian orientation (for Los Angeles, at least) is certainly an additional perk for when the Los Feliz Gelato Bar outpost opens sometime in the late spring/early summer.
Gelato Bar's coffee is also first rate, the result of Silverton and Gutman's training with Intelligentsia professionals and attending workshops in Seattle and New York. She emphasizes that "we spent a huge amount of time on training, have great equipment, and went way out of our way to taste every bean between Seattle and San Diego." Gutman, who oversees the coffee program, uses Ecco beans from Northern California and a no-nonsense Synesso machine at the Studio City location. Given the demand for these products that radiates from the Pazzo-Intelligentsia hub, the call is heeded in both directions. And unlike the 80s, Angelenos are firmly committed to their gelato and coffee rituals, thankfully.