Uli Nasibova and her husband Ryan Vaillancourt moved to Downtown LA in 2008, when the renaissance was beginning to really flower around them. Uli noticed that among the new crop of businesses and revitalized housing, the neighborhood still lacked a gelato shop, or really any kind of delicious frozen treat distribution. What started as a casual observation slowly became an obsession, and it became clear to Uli that this was her opportunity to fill an empty niche and embark upon a new venture.
Gelato making, like baking, is much more science than spontaneity, and getting the perfect flavor with the perfect texture requires both academic precision and passion- things Uli has in droves. The former financial analyst knew that working in an office for someone else wasn’t going to be a permanent situation for her. When her passion lead to the batch freezer, the community in which she lived rose up with unwavering support for the product she’d stayed up countless nights to perfect.
After inserting an industrial gelato freezer in their home, Uli threw herself headlong into developing and testing about forty initial gelato and sorbetto recipes. In the spring of 2014, Gelateria Uli opened its doors in the Spring Arcade between 5th and 6th Streets in Downtown’s Historic Core. Since then, Ryan and Uli have become so entrenched within their community that when you Google image “Spring Arcade Downtown LA” a photo of the couple pops up immediately.
Uli is known for both traditional flavors like pistachio, stracciatella, lemon sorbetto, and seasonal offerings like stone fruit and watermelon sorbetti and darjeeling tea gelato. She also draws a lot of inspiration from the rich cultural enclave that is Downtown LA (and LA writ large). Coconut lemongrass, Thai tea, black sesame, jamaica, poblano, sweet corn, avocado, and horchata gelati have all rotated through the menu, as has halva, a nod to Uli’s heritage. “Around the holidays,” she says, “everyone has Christmas flavors, no one has Chanukah flavors.”
All of Uli’s gelati are made on-site at the shop (and the kitchen is on display,) as are their equally delicious waffle cones and bowls. They also offer baked goods, espresso drinks and coffee from Counter Culture, and a to-go freezer filled with hand-packed pints, frozen puppy treats, and gelato cakes.
Gelateria Uli is located inside the Spring Arcade at 541 S. Spring St in Downtown LA. They’re open Monday-Wednesday from 12pm-10pm, Thursday-Saturday from 12pm-11pm, and Sunday from 12pm-9pm. You can keep up with the shop via www.gelateriauli.com , on Instagram and Twitter @gelateriauli and at Facebook.com/gelateriauli.