The June gloom is giving way to full-strength summer heat, and that means one thing: Time for ice cream. Okay, it means two things: Time for ice cream and frozen yogurt. Happily, the San Gabriel Valley is home to the some of the finest in the state, some so good that people drive from across the Southland just for a taste. Here are our smooth and creamy stars.
749 E. Altadena Dr., Altadena, 626.791.6174, bulgarinigelato.com. Leo Bulgarini and Elizabeth Foldi who were so obsessed with gelato and sorbetto that they apprenticed in Sicily before coming up with their flavors, which they originally served from a cart in the courtyard at the Pacific Asia Museum. After developing a rabid following, they opened this store way up in Altadena, which attracts fans from all over L.A. Must-try flavors include Sicilian pistachio (the addiction of many), cherimoya, peach-moscato and zabaglione. Make your next party a hit by hiring their mobile gelato cart.
Dr. Bob’s Ice Cream
Pomona Fairgrounds, Pomona, 909.865.1956, drbobsicecream.com. Only the most diehard fans call ahead and stop by the factory with a cooler and dry ice when heading to the far eastern stretches of the SG Valley (or is that the Inland Empire?) — and we know several of those diehard fans. Robert Small, aka Dr. Bob, is a professor at Cal Poly Pomona who turned his love of ice cream into a booming business, making small-batch ice creams with a 16% butterfat content and incredibly good flavors, especially Really Dark Chocolate, Lemon Custard and, just during summer, Fresh Peach. If you’re not headed out that way, look for his ice creams at Gelson’s, Bristol Farms, Julienne and Howie’s Ranch Market.
1824 W. Main St., Alhambra, 626.282.6533, fosselmans.com. Its 16% butterfat ice cream is on just about every “best of” list around, but this 90-year-old institution remains at heart an old-fashioned, family-run parlor that draws diverse crowds to its brick storefront. The regular ice cream and sherbet menu is dazzlingly varied, from real vanilla and white chocolate chip to green tea and dulce de leche, but it is the seasonal flavors — like fresh peach, which is a big draw right now — that get us really excited. The shakes, malts and hot fudge sundaes are just like you remember them — maybe better. Fosselman’s is also served at a few other good spots, including Buster’s (2006 Mission St., South Pasadena) and the Ice Cream Shop (2136 Huntington Dr., San Marino).
711 Foothill Blvd., La Canada, 818.790.0298, penguinsyogurt.com. When you’re craving Dr. Bob’s but your cardiologist says no, head to Penguin’s for a frozen yogurt, and you won’t feel too deprived. The nonfat chocolate and vanilla (90 calories per serving) are smooth and creamy, without too much of that fake-sweet taste. Every few days there’s a new sugar-free flavor, as well as a non-dairy flavor. You can cancel out the low calories and fat by having them dump candy on top, but most regulars in health-conscious La Canada opt for fresh fruit — or a classic chocolate-vanilla swirl. Prices are low, the coffee is from Peet’s, and, for those who want to really indulge, there’s some real ice cream, too.
85 W. Colorado Blvd., Old Pasadena, 626.304.9521, 21choices.com. Known for its exuberantly friendly staff and a line that typically stretches outside the door, 21 Choices actually offers untold thousands of possible combinations for its custom-made, mix-in frozen yogurts, among the finest in L.A. The in-house recipes are usually delicious, especially in summer (peach crumble, anyone?) and there’s a dazzling array of toppings to pair with the French vanilla or Valrhona chocolate. Bonus: Great-looking firefighters regularly park the hook ‘n’ ladder in the red out front and take a yogurt break. Double bonus: Commendable efforts to be more sustainable with packaging and products.