Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Lotta Gelato

I discovered the pleasures of gelato on a trip to Italy. I've always loved ice cream, but had never really explored gelato. We savored gelato at least once, sometimes as often as three times a day during our 10 days in Tuscany. We visited the shop around the corner from our hotel at least once a day. I counted over thirty flavors I at least tasted, and learned the names of most flavors in Italian. My favorite was mango from a tiny shop near a flea market in Florence.

When we went to Brazil, I read that they specialize in fruit drinks, similar to smoothies, in the beach towns, so I learned all the fruits in Portuguese. In the area where we stayed, almost no one speaks English. On our first day settled into the house, we learned there was a mall nearby with a gelato shop. A group of us decided to check it out. We had no trouble finding it, but deciphering the flavors and their ordering system was another matter. After learning all the Portuguese fruit names, still nothing was recognizable. Suddenly I realized it was all in Italian! Now I could make my selection, but the actual ordering and payment was quite comical. We kept those young ladies behind the counter entertained for quite a while.

My friend Nancy, who goes to Italy often, says there is a place that has better gelato than Italy. And it’s here in California. Hermosa Beach, to be exact, where I was headed over the weekend to help my son move. So we had to check out her recommendation of Paciugo Gelato and Caffe. We were not disappointed –except that we’ve been visiting my son for seven years and didn’t know about this place before. We could have been eating their fabulous gelato all this time.

Paciugo makes all their gelato by hand and the flavor variety is amazing. They offer 32 of their approximately 300 flavors each day. I think we tried over half of them. There weren’t as many standard fruit flavors as I generally expect for a gelato shop, but they more than compensated with unique flavors, such as Mediterranean Sea Salt Caramel, Rose Chocolate Chip, Black Sesame, Chocolate Coconut Curry, Chocolate Green Tea and Black Pepper Olive Oil, just to name a few. There was also plenty of nuts and chocolates and other more routine flavors with exotic names.

The gelato is rich, creamy and smooth and the fruit flavors don’t have the grainy consistency found in some fruit gelato. The Rose Chocolate Chip tasted just as I imagined. Smell a rose, then what would that taste like on chocolate? You got it. The Black Pepper Olive Oil was also quite unique. It was a delicate flavor with a long pepper finish.

We’re not likely to return to Hermosa soon, since my son has moved to the Thousand Oaks area. I'm really going to miss visiting him at the beach. But I was cheered immensely to discover on Sunday, that TO also has a Paciugo. And it’s on the same street as the hotel where we stayed! Needless to say, we had more gelato. This shop has a different feel, being located in a mall, rather than at the beach, but the gelato was every bit as delicious. And there were new flavors to try – blueberry cobbler, vanilla lavender, orange tangerine, and cinnamon. Maybe I won’t mind his move inland after all.

3 comments:

  1. Black Pepper Olive Oil sounds awesome. When we were in Florence it actually snowed on us! So I have to admit we were more into hot drinks that cold desserts. ;) (Hi from the Foodie Blogroll!)

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  2. Come se dice "mango" in italiano?? So, when are we opening our Pachiugo franchise here?

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  3. A little snow never deters us from trying the local ice cream. We have great photos of us devouring frozen fruit bars in a blizzard in Poland.

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