Restaurant News & Reviews

Negranti Dairy and Leo Leo Gelato offer sweet treats

Alexis Negranti talks to customers about her sheep milk ice cream.
Alexis Negranti talks to customers about her sheep milk ice cream.

Here’s a look at two locally produced sweet treats being featured at Sunset’s Savor the Central Coast event, and they’re also available at local markets!

Negranti Dairy and Artisan Creamery

I scream, ewe scream, we all scream for Negranti Dairy’s ice cream!

It only takes one taste to become a fan of the sheep milk ice cream produced by Alexis Negranti at her artisan creamery. The frozen delight is rich, but light and creamy, with less fat than cow milk ice cream. Plus, as Negranti notes on her website, “sheep milk is richer in vitamins A, B, and E, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium than cow’s milk,” and she never uses “fake emulsifiers or stabilizers.”

In addition, she also uses organic cane sugar, and sources the other ingredients as locally as possible, from strawberries and basil at the farmers market, right down to the Cook’s Vanilla that’s produced in Paso Robles.

Given the warm welcome that consumers have given her ice cream, it’s hard to believe that less than two years ago Negranti had never milked an animal, let alone made ice cream. It all began in December, 2010, when she mentioned to her husband, Wade Negranti, that she’d really rather give up her office job and “marry my love of animals and my passion for yummy, quality food.”

In January, they got their starter flock. By March, they were milking. Now, the “Teat to Table” ice cream is in local stores and selling about as fast as Negranti can make it. She admits that “I never anticipated growing this quickly, and sometimes I wonder what I got myself into, but I love it.”

The dairy and creamery is inventively housed in a repurposed freight cargo container that’s one-third milking station, onethird cleanup room, and one-third commercial kitchen. It not only meets all the necessary regulations of those duties, but is also portable.

Currently, Negranti is concentrating on making four flavors: Vanilla Bean, Black Coffee, Raw Honey, and her “flagship” Strawberry Basil. However, in keeping with recent culinary trends, she just unveiled a savory “Salty Brown” made with brown sugar and sea salt that’s already a popular favorite.

“I really like that ice creams are becoming more savory,” she said. “I think it makes them more interesting, almost like wines, with layers of flavors, not just the sweet.” In fact, she noted that “I’m really excited to see what I can do this fall with butternut squash.”

Leo Leo Gelato

Thanks to his Italian heritage, Niccolo Lekai grew up a devoted fan of gelato (think ice cream, but lighter) and sorbetto. He parlayed that into a job at a gelato company during and after college, so it made sense to eventually churn up his own brand.

Teaming up with his father, Lekai converted office space the family owned in Paso Robles into a commercial kitchen for Leo Leo Gelato and became the company’s master gelatier. The sweet treats began hitting the local market a year ago and have already won over a lot of taste buds.

Lekai makes his gelato and sorbetto every week in three-gallon batches to order. He’s got dozens of dairy and dairy-free flavors he’s developed, from crème brulée to grapefruit, plus the hand’s down favorites of vanilla, chocolate, and sea salt caramel.

Katy Budge is a freelance writer from Atascadero. Contact her at