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[Photographs: Lauren Sloss]

Gualala, California is a tiny seaside town that hugs the Sonoma-Mendocino border. It's a place of dramatic coastlines, bracing sea breezes, and plenty of fresh fish. It is not a necessarily a place where you expect to eat the best gelato of your life.

But it can be. The luscious, creamy scoops and half pints of dairy perfection lovingly created by Marco Perucci Moramarco, affectionately termed "Pazzo Marco" by his family, beat the pants off anything I had in Italy (cue the pitchfork waving).

Hear me out. Marco painstakingly handcrafts each batch of gelato using a traditional Italian method that he has perfected in his gelato lab buried in the woods in the Gualala hills. Not a trace of iciness is to be found—Marco's gelato is pure, smooth, creaminess.

Then there are his flavors. Marco utilizes fresh, locally grown ingredients—some are grown as locally as his yard—meaning his fresh fruit flavors are strictly seasonal (and often take the form of a delicate sorbetto). Another secret of his gelato is in the high quality of milk and cream that he uses, not to mention a delicate touch with strongly-flavored ingredients.

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On a recent visit, we found Marco and his gelato cart outside of the Surf Supermarket with six flavors on hand. The stracciatella alla menta ($3 for one scoop, on the right) is a study in mint chocolate perfection. Rich fior de latte gelato allows the fresh milk he uses to shine. It's delicately laced with fresh mint and peppered with bittersweet dark chocolate. Each ingredient contributes to the overall flavor, without taking on a dominant role.

Marco doesn't stay strictly local—his amarula cream gelato ($3, left) showcases the sweet, nutty cream liqueur produced in South Africa. With hints of caramel and mango, the gelato captures the liqueur's unique flavor profile while maintaining its creamy consistency.

At the top, Marco is holding the fresh Sebastopol strawberry sorbetto ($3), a decided crowd favorite. "It tastes exactly like strawberries.... but BETTER," one friend declared wide-eyed.

Oh, and rumor has it that Marco is going to be making cheese next. Sign. me. up.

Gelati Pazzo Marco is available at a few spots in the Gualala and Sea Ranch area, with flavors rotating frequently. Follow them on Facebook or sign up for their mailing list to make sure you get your gelato fix when on the Sonoma/Mendocino coast.

Pazzo Marco Creamery
707-884-9548; pazzomarco.com


About the author: Lauren Sloss is a bicoastal food-lover who is based in San Francisco. Some of her favorite things include The Black Keys, goat gouda, and guacamole. You can follow her on Twitter @laurensloss.

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