When Leo Bulgarini opened Bulgarini Gelato in the spring of 2007, in the back of an enormous parking lot in the upper atmosphere of Altadena, the little gelateria felt like a secret-handshake society. For Westsiders, it may as well have been on Mars; even for locals, it was hard to find, hidden behind all that concrete. The hours were inconstant, the flavors erratic, and Bulgarini would sometimes close his shop to go on beautiful pistachio hunts — in his native Italy. Seven years later, although there's a second outpost in Culver City, little has changed in the original shop — which is why we still love it so much. There are movie nights on summer Saturday evenings, when often-obscure foreign films are projected onto more concrete, this time vertical walls. During World Cup season, the place opens for certain Italian soccer matches. A few years ago, Bulgarini fashioned a marble altar to his Rome-made copper Elektra espresso machine. And, of course, there's Leo's always spectacular gelato: the near-legendary pistachio (the nuts carried home in his suitcase), goat's milk-cacao nib, blood orange, yogurt and olive oil, chocolate and salt. One could go on. Maybe just point your car north and upward. —Amy Scattergood
749 E. Altadena Drive, Altadena, 91001. (626) 791-6174, bulgarinigelato.com.