And you thought I had nerves of steel posting about Burger King on the General Topics board ;-)
I got to meet a friend for lunch over in Glendale today. We were driving around Arrowhead Towne Center when I realized that the area is quite the challenge for a Chowhound. We quickly realized that there were an awful lot of people willing to wait a long time for things. I decided that it might be a good idea to have lunch later so that we wouldn't have to compete with the throngs of people all over the place, and so we went to the mall itself to kill some time. While walking around, I saw a little gelato stand. How could I possibly not try it out?
When I approached the freezer case, I was thrilled to see that they made the signs for the various flavors in Italian, with the English name directly below it. The girl behind the counter, Ciara, was a perfect example of how people should treat their guests. She was passionate about the product, very friendly, and just made you feel like you've known her for ages. I was most amused by her attempts to barter gelato for my friend's hat. We also got to meet the mom behind the mom-and-pop store, BeBe Lombardo. I can see where Ciara got her spark; BeBe is a warm, caring lady who makes you feel right at home and forget that you're in the middle of a busy shopping mall, and is every bit as passionate about the gelato as Ciara (and I'd be willing to bet that the rest of the Lombardo family is too). It was very, very nice to see that they aren't miserly with the samples. Ciara even made suggestions of unexpected flavor combinations and backed up their deliciousness with a sample of both on the same spoon.
While I'm genuinely pleased to find a place that offers incredible service, the food that accompanies the service had better be good. Boy, did the Lombardo clan ever deliver the goods! I went with a combination that Ciara recommended, mango sorbetto and horchata gelato, and added on the white chocolate hazelnut to enjoy on its own. My friend did a similar idea with the pineapple sorbetto and coconut gelato (again a recommendation from Ciara), and the same white chocolate hazelnut gelato as a sidecar. Everything was positively phenomenal. I was a bit skeptical of the horchata/mango combination, but the two go together like Fred and Ginger. (Oooo, ginger gelato... I may have to try that at home some time...) The mango gelato was lush with the flavors of fresh ripe mangoes, the horchata a perfect translation of the delicious rice milk with cinnamon into a frozen treat, and the white chocolate hazelnut was pure decadence on a spoon. My friend's pineapple and coconut followed the trend, with the pineapple tasting very fresh, and the coconut had lots of coconut mixed throughout. I'll have to take some of each home to blend with rum for piña coladas some time. I look forward to trying out things like the straciatella, pistachio, and cherry chocolate chip. I greatly enjoyed everything about my visit to the Lombardos' shop, and can hardly wait until the next time that I can make my way to the northwest Valley to say hello to the Lombardo clan again.
I have a feeling that more than a few of you are wondering how Lombardo's Gelato compares with the other places I've tried. I can confidently say that Lombardo's is *the* best gelato I have had in Phoenix. The next time I get a craving for gelato, I will seriously consider driving all the way from Tempe to 75th Ave and Bell. Good news for everyone in the east valley, they're planning on opening a second location at Fiesta Mall some time in the next few months.
Oh, one more thing... as my friend and I were singing the praises of Lombardo's to a friend of his, another mall patron had mentioned that somewhere in north Scottsdale, he had enjoyed gelato that was even better than Lombardo's. The mind reels.
Arrowhead Towne Center, 75th Ave and Bell Rd, Glendale AZ
Service: 6 (Congratulations, you deserve it!)
Atmosphere: 4 (looked very nice for a stand in the middle of the mall, and spotlessly clean)
Price: 1 (Cheap eats, cost here ranges $2-6)
Kid Friendly: 4
Open During: L, D (regular mall hours)