When Pulitizer-Prize-winning food writer Jonathan Gold recommends a place, smart foodies listen.
After all, not only can the man write (he is the only food writer to ever win journalism’s highest honor), but he has impeccable taste.
So when my hubby and I were in Los Angeles recently, we picked up a copy of LA Weekly, which Gold writes for. It happened to be its “Best of LA” issue, jam-packed with the very best food finds in this sprawling metropolis.
My eye caught Gold’s recommendation for “best gelato.” Bulgarini Gelato in Altadena. Gold describes this small, quirky gelato shop owned by the one and only Leo Bulgarini as “His gelati are labeled only in Italian, and he is not above correcting an 8-year-old on her faulty pronunciation of pistacchio or stracciatella. His standards are so famously strict that he’s been known to pull his delicious sorbetti from the menus of restaurants and the freezer cases of retailers that in one way or another failed to come up to his standards. A big photograph on the wall of his Altadena shop shows him making an obscene Italian gesture to a giant Sicilian ice cream plant….”
OK, so maybe I was a little afraid as I stepped through the doors. I took a deep breath, fearing it would be like the Soup Nazi episode of “Seinfeld.” I’d order incorrectly and be tossed out, denied a taste of gelato nirvana for all time.
Leo took my order himself, his wrists still bearing the remnants of some crushed red berries he’d been mixing up into gelato in the back room. He was quiet, but perfectly pleasant, dishing up my small cup ($3.75) with my choice of two flavors: pistacchio and zabaglione.
I walked out of the shop, dipped the tiny spoon into the mother lode, and just stopped in my tracks.
The Marsala and eggy richness came through loud and clear in the zabaglione. But it was the pistacchio that made me almost weep. It was as if Leo had taken 10 pounds of pistachios and ground them up to make this one tiny scoop of gelato. To say the flavor was intense is an understatement.
Gold writes that Leo makes this flavor with especially fragrant pistachios that he smuggles in from Sicily. Let’s hope he never gets caught, because the world would be a far less pleasurable place without a gelato like this. It was without a doubt the most amazing pistachio dessert of any kind I’ve ever had.
Gold definitely knows what he’s talking about. But then again, I wouldn’t expect any less from a Pulitizer-Prize-winning palate.