An affogato--the word comes from the Italian affogare, to drown--is the blissful marriage of two of Italy's finest exports: espresso and gelato, and it may well be the best union of hot and cold since the Baked Alaska. In an fine affogato, neither the espresso nor the gelato is compromised; instead each highlights the finer points of the other. A bad affogato can seem like an unfortunate accident, an ice cream float your kid made with Folgers instead of root beer.
At Intelligentsia Venice, which serves perhaps the best one of these in town, the affogato is achieved by first placing a scoop of dense vanilla bean gelato, made by David Myers' bistro comme Ça, into a pleasantly weighty Gibraltar glass (a small bar glass, so called because, if you turn it horizontally, the thin space between the upper and lower wells resembles the Straits of Gibraltar). The barrista then pours a just-pulled double shot of Black Cat espresso over the gelato.
The thick crema from the espresso melts the outer edges of the gelato, forming what looks like a bit of haphazard latte art in the glass. As both the espresso and the gelato are dense, perfectly orchestrated examples of their kind, the affogato resists melting for a surprising number of minutes. Far longer than it will take you to finish off what is perhaps the best breakfast combo to be had in Los Angeles.
If you cannot make it over to Abbot Kinney, there are other places to get an excellent affogato in town. Perhaps chief among them is Pizzeria Mozza, where pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez spins some amazing gelato, which she then drowns in Intelligentsia espresso. You can chose whichever gelato flavor is currently on the menu--hazelnut, mint chip, olive oil, to name a few.
Pazzo Gelato's affogatos are actually called Pazzogatos, and they come, if you want this, with nuts, chocolate sauce and whipped cream in addition to a scoop of gelato and Black Cat espresso from Intelligentsia--the first LA outpost of which is conveniently located just across the street at Sunset Junction. (The Silver Lake Intelligentsia, by the way, does not serve affogato, as they do not get a pastry delivery from David Myers every morning.)
And at Altadena's Bulgarini Gelato, Leo Bulgarini makes fantastic affogatos with espresso pulled from the copper Elektra espresso machine the gelato-maker had shipped from his native Rome--and if the traditional vanilla is too tame, try a scoop of goat's milk-prosecco gelato instead.
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Intelligentsia Venice: 1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice; (310) 399-1233.
Pizzeria Mozza: 641 N. Highland Avenue, Los Angeles; (323) 297-0101.
Pazzo Gelato: 3827 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 662-1410.
Bulgarini Gelato: 749 E. Altadena Drive, Altadena; (626) 791-6174.