Sunday, September 12, 2010

Gelato Bar & Espresso Cafe - Mini Italian Piazza in Tujunga

The Silverton name, in the LA dining scene, has been synonymous with amazing but accessible food, served in an intimate and relaxed setting.  Nancy Silverton (of Osteria and Pizzeria Mozzas and La Brea Bakery) needs no introduction - but her sister, Gail Silverton, has also proven to be a force to be reckoned with - over in the valley, starting with Gelato Bar & Espresso Cafe in the heart of Tujunga Village in Studio City (just a few steps from Cafe Aroma).

The concept is a mini Italian Piazza to provide a relaxing reprieve from the stresses of the city - and it works to charming effect.  A stone fountain with water springing out of a carved lion-head provides calming background sounds, and a communal table/bench faces outward to the few tables on the street, providing a sort of window-seat great for people watching, while Italian cafe style rattan patio chairs line the small and cozy room.   Small racks of imported Italian treats are sprinkled throughout the cafe, ranging from candies to chocolates to biscotti.

On a sunny day, strolling down the stretch of Tujunga Ave that is home to quaint clothing boutiques and artisan cafes, you truly understand the meaning of bliss.  Take that over the edge with a cold treat from Gelato Bar & Espresso Cafe.  My favorite flavor so far is one I have yet to see elsewhere:  Mascaffe - a unique blend of mascarpone cheese with swirls of coffee woven throughout.  The Tiramisu is also better than ones I've had at other places (I used to love Charley Temel's ice cream version of this flavor, but haven't seen them serve it in years - and it definitely is not of the same caliber as Gelato Bar's).  Other flavors that have intriguing names include: Canella Basilico, Nutelle, PannaCotta and Limoncello.  These form the basis of a new checklist of flavors I am determined to try before I die.  Also on my list is the "Affogato" - though its literal translation, "drowned", is an interesting choice - the actual drink/dessert consists of a scoop of gelato with a shot of espresso poured over it, topped by whiped cream, and definitely has me drooling. I'm also keeping an eye on the sorbettos and sugar free gelato also available at the bar.

Lastly, the Espresso Cafe of course also offers artisan coffees and teas, as well as a selection of fresh pastries.

Those closer to Loz Feliz can also enjoy all these treats at the Hillhurst location.

My only complaint with Gelato Bar & Espresso Cafe is the price - at $4.50 for the smallest size ("piccolo" - about a 1/4 cup serving) and $5.50 for a medium ("medio" - about a 1/2 cup), the gelato is definitely a 'treat' that budget foodies like myself can't afford to have often.  I know this is artisanal gelato and completely in a different planet from the Pinkberry froyos of the world - and that I am speaking absolute blasphemy - but had it been a scorching summer day in LA, when a frozen treat's function as cooling agent eclipses its role as a sweet finish to a meal, I would probably take quantity over quality and opt for the medium sized Pinkberry instead ($4.95 at last check for about 1 cup serving size, plus unlimited toppings; $5.95 for about 1.75 cup portion plus unlimited toppings).

Cost aside, Gelato Bar & Espresso Cafe offers a lovely place to spend part of your afternoon, and molto delizioso gelato that will keep you coming back for more.

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 5 bites
Originality - 5.5 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 5 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$ (3 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%


Gelato Bar & Espresso Cafe
4342 Tujunga Ave
Studio City, CA 91604
Ph: 818.487.1717

Gelato Bar on Urbanspoon

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