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Ice Cream Week: Pazzo Gelato

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July is National Ice Cream Month. To celebrate, we'll be reviewing some of our favorite ice cream spots -- and some new ones, too -- all this week.

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A few of the 24 flavors in the case at Pazzo Gelato in Silver Lake (Lindsay William-Ross/LAist)
I'm going back to the roots of ice cream by working some gelato into our Ice Cream week; while it's not the same as ice cream, they are ancestral relatives, and, well, dammit, gelato can be incredibly delicious. To find some of the best gelato in a range of tempting and inventive flavors, I headed to Pazzo Gelato to do a little tasting.

With a five-year-old location in Silver Lake, and a brand new one just opened in Echo Park, Pazzo Gelato owner and chief gelato-maker Michael Buch's gelaterias are symbolic of the good ol' American "dream big and work hard ethic." Having worked for about a year before opening up shop on mastering gelato-making technique and coming up with fun flavors, it was the wisdom of an Italian expert that helped him perfect his plan and his recipes. Now customers will find 24 fun flavors (18 in the Echo Park store) in the display case, with a few extras tucked in the store room and available for the asking.

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As delighted as you or I might be to happen upon some gorgeous summer stone fruit at our favorite weekly farmers' market, Buch may be doubly so, since he immediately is inspired to make a gelato, or dairy-free (and often vegan) sorbetto from the produce. Case in point, the Black Splendor Plum and the Blenheim Apricot that were being scooped up into cups and cones the afternoon we stopped in, lush with bold, vibrant, summery flavor. Additionally, flavors of the season, or a request from a customer or restaurant will inspire a new concoction. "It's easy to come up with 500 or a 1000 flavors," explains Buch, riffing on all the ways "chocolate" can become a couple dozen different flavors. Swoon. Indeed.

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Gelato is so much better with a friend! Toffee with Toasted Pecans and Strawberry Custard (left) and Plum and Apricot sorbetto (Lindsay William-Ross/LAist)

There are a set of customer favorite flavors that Buch says are usually in the case, or are probably tucked in the back if someone really wants, say, their Red Velvet, which is not just red velvet cake-y flavored gelato, but rather a cream-cheese gelato inspired from the traditional frosting, with red velvet cake chunks in the mix. There's always the Madagascar vanilla, a chocolate, some sort of nut flavor, like Hazelnut or Pistachio, Strawberry, and a coffee flavor in the rotation, which still leaves plenty of room for other tasty choices.

Speaking of flavors, Buch indulged us in giving us ample tastes of just about everything in the case (it's a tough job, but someone's got to do it). Seriously--no complaints here, every flavor was excellent. Standouts among the gelato included Toffee with Toasted Pecans, Espresso, Strawberry Custard, European Yogurt, and Salty Chocolate. (On a previous visit, the Creme Fraiche gelato vaulted itself into my mental file of "foods I will crave" on the first bite.) Of the sorbetto, the Pineapple Thyme, Blood Orange, along with the aforementioned Plum and Apricot were lovely.

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Pazzo Gelato owner Mike scoops up a cup for a customer (Lindsay William-Ross/LAist)
Over in the just-opened Echo Park location, Buch says there's more space for seating, and in the near future he plans to launch a limited menu of non-gelato items, like sandwiches, though he cautions that he doesn't want to serve sandwiches just for the sake of, but rather take the time to come up with some top-notch ingredient combos. Look out for a more veg and vegan-centric menu, too, since Echo Park is becoming more and more known as a haven for those who keep an animal-free diet.

"I always tell people I'm not an artist," admits Buch as an influx of customers queues up in front of the beckoning display case. "I can't draw, I can't paint. But this is my artistic outlet."

And what delicious artistry it is.