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Ice Cream Summer v2.0: Bellying Up to the Gelato Bar

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The summer before last, I ran a series called Ice Cream Summer, whereupon I undertook the dreadful, nasty, difficult, and troublesome task of tasting the wares of many of our fair city's many ice creameries. I crowned the victor as Gelato Paradiso, a then-new gelato bar located smack dab in the heart of all the dressed-up charactermelee of Hollywood Boulevard.

But so much has happened in the world of frozen dairy (or non-dairy, ahem) desserts since then, including both the demise of Gelato Paradiso, and the world domination-like arrival of a multitude of NameOfColor/NameOfFruit frozen yogurt shops. (What's taking Gelato Paradiso's place, you ask? Why, Ce Fiore--a frozen yogurt shop--of course!) But it's not just the cold of the creamy snack or dessert fare that's making us shudder. It's the fact that we're settling for yogurt (or fake yogurt, is the jury still out on that one?) with pricey toppings (it's just fruit, people, you can buy it in the store and cut it up yourself to the same effect) when we could have something so much better.

So Ice Cream Summer v2.0 has arrived. This is a "NO FRO-YO" zone, mind you. You go wait in line at Pinkberry. Because we're starting things off in Studio City with a heaping cup loaded with Gail Silverton's gelato at her aptly named Gelato Bar. Come, join us...

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Gelato Bar fits seamlessly into the stretch of boutiques and gourmet-esque shops on one block of Tujunga Boulevard traveling south from Moorpark. It's dog friendly, and decidedly anti-smoking (yes, even when seated at one of the outdoor wrought iron tables), and boasts cozy indoor seating that includes one "community" designated table in the window. Before you even ask, I will tell you--yes, Gail is a part of that Silverton clan--sister of Nancy; you can buy her books at Gelato Bar, should you wish to go home and work with breads after stuffing your face with gelato. Like moths to the proverbial flame you're drawn to the display case immediately upon entering; gelato is so very beautiful to look at, as it's often artfully arranged in ribbony form inside the cool stainless steel bowls. Cheerful tags declare the flavors' names--sometimes in Italian, with English subtitles for the rest of us. It is, I assure you, very hard to decide.

Of course, what helps make the choice is the chance to taste. Here's where Gelato Bar starts to lose its charm. The staff are kind of teen-angsty. They'll serve you, but they don't seem too interested in turning you onto their product. They'll also engage in a spat about personal belongings with their boss while you and many others stand in line, which is always fun to be privy to, yes? Maybe I'm just asking too much of my gelato servers--but the thing is, they've got an exciting product that tastes phenomenal, they're putting a fairly substantial pricetag on it, and yet they completely lack enthusiasm. (Hmmm... Note to self: A post on the death of customer service might be a good next move.)

They offer up 24 flavors of gelato, and I will steal shamelessly from their own website the following lowdown:

including traditional Italian as well as specialty flavors unique to Gelato Bar: Pistachio, Nocciola, Stracciatella, Spicy Chocolate, Blood Orange, Pink Grapefruit, Zuppe Inglese, Cinnamon Basil and Dairy Free Chocolate. An English Toffee gelato is inspired by the famous toffee from Littlejohn's at the Los Angeles Farmer's Market on 3rd Street. Also offered daily are dairy-free sorbetto and sugar-free gelato flavors

Man, that Zuppe Inglese is good--it's vanilla cream with ladyfingers and chocolate fudge ribbons. Another favorite is the Pink Grapefruit--divinely tart and sweet, and a great way to get your dessert on but keep the palate cool during these hot summer months. And, if you want to be able to read those flavor tags in their native tongue, they apparently offer free Italian lessons Thursdays at 2 p.m. Meraviglioso, I say!It seems I've begun my Ice Cream Summer in stride with where I left it at the end of August 2005, with a serving of amazing gelato that is hard to match. But of course, it's merely July, and we've only just begun. I might re-visit some spots I listed in '05, and I'm definitely up for trying all that's left to try--so long as it isn't fozen yogurt. Got somewhere you think I should go? Let me know in the comments. And I'll be back for more Ice Cream Summer!

Gelato Bar
4342 1/2 Tujunga Avenue, Studio City

Photo by Lindsay William-Ross for LAist