Among the many excellent mash-ups in the food world, one of the simplest and most blissful is the affogato, the marriage of two of Italy's finest exports, espresso and gelato. The word comes from the Italian affogare, to drown, and it's a pretty accurate summation of the dish, in which a scoop of ice cream is submerged, or close to it, in a shot or double shot of espresso. Both espresso and gelato should be intense, thick and creamy, neither overwhelming the other, and not overwhelming in itself.
An affogato is thus a very simple thing, or should be. Although some people add a shot of booze or whipped cream, a very good affogato should be just gelato and espresso (not, God forbid, brewed coffee).
But finding a perfectly pulled shot of espresso and a very good scoop of ice cream is not as easy as you'd think — and a bad affogato can seem like an unfortunate accident, a crappy ice cream float your kid made with Folgers instead of root beer. Here are a dozen of the best in town — a perfect dessert or pick-me-up, or even breakfast. Purists beware: We included a few that might annoy you. Because even the world of caffeine and sugar should be a democracy sometimes.]
12. Pazzo Gelato
The affogato from this Silver Lake gelato shop is like a coffee geek's idea of a sundae (maybe a little too much so). A double shot of Intelligentsia Black Cat espresso, two scoops of gelato (the Madagascar vanilla is classic, but you can go for Peruvian chocolate or even Guinness mocha chip, if you're feeling adventurous), then a mound of whipped cream and a sprinkling of nuts. Perfect if you like dessert for breakfast, or have stopped at Sunset Junction on your way home from work on a hot day, and still need more caffeine in your life. For the dairy-free among us: Omit the whipped cream and switch out chocolate sorbetto for the gelato. 3827 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-662-1410.
11. Gelato Bar
Gelato Bar, along the cozy stretch of Tujunga near Aroma Cafe, is an exceedingly fun place to hang out: a mash-up of a gelato bar and a coffee shop, with wooden tables, huge windows and outdoor seating with brightly colored umbrellas. As you'd imagine, their mash-up in a glass is just as good. Into a frosted mug goes a double shot of Parallel espresso and a hefty scoop of the house gelato. The vanilla is the classic, but the stracciatella is also outstanding especially with the tuille cookie. It's more of a dessert iteration (there's a whipped cream option), but given the large gelato selection (salted caramel also works well with caffeine), that's probably inevitable. 4342 1/2 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; 818-487-1717.
10. Scoops Westside
Scoops, the little ice cream shop in a strip mall off Overland in Palms, is a cozy place: 14 tubs of ice cream in a compact frozen case, a coffee and an espresso machine behind the counter, a couch and a few squishy chairs lining the wall. Wifi. Tunes. Regulars. The affogatos are classic iterations: a shot of espresso, a scoop of ice cream. Although the cinnamon coffee is probably a better aesthetic choice, it's the brown bread ice cream that's probably the favorite — for the affogatos, for everything. You got a problem with candied Grape Nuts in your affogato? Calm down. 3400 Overland Ave., Los Angeles; 323-405-7055.[
9. Short Cake
There are plenty of coffee and ice cream options inside the happy controlled chaos of the Original Farmers Market at the Grove, but the best place to get both of them simultaneously is at Short Cake, the pastry shop adjunct to the late Amy Pressman's burger joint Short Order. Your double shot of Verve espresso will be expertly pulled from a very pretty turquoise La Marzocco. And the scoop of ice cream will actually be frozen custard made next door at Short Order with Strauss milk and vanilla beans. The affogato isn't on the menu per se, but they'll make it if you ask for it — and you probably should. 6333 W. Third St., Los Angeles; 323-761-7976.
8. Intelligentsia Pasadena
The affogato that the baristas construct for you at Intelligentsia comes in a pretty bar glass, rather like one for old-school martinis, and outfitted with a slender silver spoon. It's kind of like how you imagine the Varnish would make an affogato, if they decided to. A double shot of excellently pulled espresso. A perfect scoop of Strauss vanilla ice cream. Ta-da. And of course you get to sip the thing in Intelligentsia's gorgeous digs. Your coffeehouse, our meth lab. 55 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; 626-578-1270.
7. Sweet Rose Creamery
The first thing you see when you walk into the Sweet Rose Creamery on Beverly Boulevard is the swank crimson GB/5 La Marzocca, which is to coffee makers what a Lamborghini is to cars. Sweet Rose pulls shots of Caffe Luxxe espresso, one shot to one scoop of ice cream. Brought to you by Josh Loeb, Zoe Nathan and Shiho Yoshikawa, Sweet Rose makes some excellent ice cream, using local ingredients and Clover organic milk. Purists will want vanilla, but there's lots to choose from if you'd like a scoop of honey goat cheese ice cream or candied cherry with coconut granola. Up to you. 7565 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-260-2663.[
Maybe it's the ambiance, or the promise of excellent pasta, but an affogato can taste exceptionally good at a cozy Italian restaurant. At Terroni, they'll make you one with a shot of espresso and a scoop of nocciola, hazelnut gelato that's been rolled in cocoa power. It's presented in a little silver cup, and your server will pour the shot of espresso over the gelato at tableside, as he would a little pitcher of sauce into a souffle. It's a beautiful thing, as well as a tricky feat of temperature, as the espresso machine is on the other side of the restaurant from the dessert station — and thus the affogato is an off-menu item, and maybe not the most convenient item to order when the place is packed. 7605 Beverly Blvd.; Los Angeles; 323-954-0300.
5. G&B Coffee
Once you've had the now-obligatory iced latte, a combination of house-made almond-macadamia milk, ice and espresso in a Mason jar that was recently given much press in The New York Times, order G&B's affogato, served only in summer. It's a beautiful exercise in minimalism. The espresso is perfectly pulled from the swank La Marzocca, then poured over a small scoop of vanilla bean McConnell's ice cream. Or rather, some of a shot is; the rest is given to you in a second small glass, rather like when there is extra from your cocktail shaker. And when McConnell's, the Santa Barbara ice cream shop, moves into the market, the affogatos will probably become even better. Hard to imagine. 324 S. Hill St., Los Angeles; 312-555-5555.
4. Pizzeria Mozza
That the folks at Mozza make an excellent affogato should come as no surprise at all: Nancy Silverton and pastry chef Dahlia Narvaez have long made superior gelato, the folks pull a mean shot of Intelligentsia espresso into the pretty white pitcher, and the restaurant complex is, of course, a permanent ode to Italy. The beauty of Mozza's iteration is in the simplicity of it. Plus you get the added benefit of the beautifully crisp almond biscotti, which pairs exceptionally well with affogato. Sit at the bar. Order this after your fennel sausage pizza. Consider that life is very good. 641 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles; 323-297-0101.[
LAMill is called a “coffee boutique,” and for good reason. The place is outfitted like an antique shop or jewelry store, filled with pretty furniture and ornate mirrors and myriad glass cases filled with gorgeous accouterments. The espresso machine looks like Ferrari made it. And the pastries look too exquisite to eat. But eat them you should, along with some of the best coffee in town, roasted locally and made to exacting specifications. Despite all this fanciness, the affogato comes in a shallow bowl, like a kid's happy dessert — which makes it impossibly charming. It's also fantastic, the vanilla bean ice cream made in-house, the espresso thick and almost as creamy as the melting ice cream. 1636 Silver Lake Blvd.; Los Angeles; 323-663-4441.
2. Bulgarini Gelato
That Leo Bulgarini makes fantastic gelato is hardly a surprise: His gelateria in the upper latitudes of Altadena has long been the best place to go in this town for ethereal gelato, beautifully if eccentrically made. But ever since Bulgarini installed the copper Elektra espresso machine, shipped from his native Rome, and a high rather Baroque counter, his shop has also turned out stunning affogatos. Then there's all that gelato to drop into the cups. If the traditional vanilla is too tame, try a scoop of goat's milk-prosecco gelato instead. (Note: You will want to order the affogato only when Leo is there to make it for you.) 749 E. Altadena Drive, Altadena; 626-791-6174.
Evan Funke feels very strongly about how things are made, particularly Italian things. Get the Spago-trained, L.A.-bred, Italy-obsessed chef on the subject of properly orchestrated pasta or porchetta and you'll be at his Culver City restaurant Bucato all day. Imagine what he thinks about gelato and espresso. Thus Funke's affogato is a work of art: A demitasse comes filled with a single scoop of Nocino gelato, made in-house on Funke's PacoJet with Nocino, a walnut liqueur from Emilia-Romagna. At-table, the chef will gently pour the espresso, pulled from the espresso maker Funke inherited from Kazuto Matsusaka's Beacon, the beans roasted up the street at Coffee Conservatory. You'll be given a spoon and maybe a moment of silence, well-deserved. 3280 Helms Ave., Culver City; 310-876-0286.