Food contributes strongly to the cultural make up of Melbourne. Something that locals and visitors will agree on is not just the calibre, but the variety of what’s available. We decided to dig a little deeper into one particularly favoured treat–or rather, should we say, genre.
Ice cream, soft serve, gelato, gelati, popsicles, icy poles, and frozen yoghurt–whatever you prefer, it’s cold, sweet and always seems to be just what the doctor ordered! We spoke to a few producers to find out the secrets to some of Melbourne’s special frozen treats.
Piccolina Gelateria | Hawthorn
Piccolina Gelateria is about as authentic as you can get when it comes to gelato. Part owner Sandra Foti tells us her Italian roots gave her the inspiration she needed to open up her own cool and creamy business. “Dad learnt the tradition of gelato making in Southern Italy over 20 years ago, and he has made it at home for our family ever since. I wanted to share this wonderful tradition I had grown up with, and at the same time show people how special gelato can be.”
The gelato you’ll find at Piccolina is all-natural. This means no pastes, pre-mixes, gelatine or thickeners; which Sandra tells us are unfortunately all too common in the market. “Take Nutella for example,” Foti says. “We have created a flavour called Better than Nut-lla.” Why is it better, you ask? “The answer is simple: because it’s natural. It doesn’t have any Nutella in it–rather, we have recreated the flavour using natural ingredients [such as] hazelnuts prepared in-house and with natural cacao powder.
“We’re not saying that Nutella doesn’t taste good, it’s just that using it in our gelato or serving it from a chocolate tap goes against our philosophy, which is to create everything from scratch using natural, whole ingredients.”
Ignoring the discouragement of machinery wholesalers, the team at Piccolina employ traditional gelato making methods that date back to the 16th Century, ensuring that Melburnians keep coming back for the soft and creamy authentic gelato on offer at the popular Glenferrie store. The most asked-for flavours include pistachio, chocolate and salted caramel, but you can also get slightly more unique combinations such as bread, butter and jam, or a sheep’s ricotta and lemon–a flavour that incorporates a specially-commissioned ricotta by That’s Amore Cheese, custom-made for the flavour.
Blu Spoon | Port Melbourne
A few years back, frozen yoghurt stores were dime a dozen. Wildly popular and perceived to be healthier than ice cream, the real draw card has been the diversity of toppings on offer, such as lychee pearls or chocolate soil.
While there are still a few frozen yoghurt establishments kicking around, there’s only one that offers a rich and creamy Greek frozen yoghurt. Part owner Anna Provataris tells us what makes Blu Spoon in Port Melbourne stand apart from other fro-yo in Melbourne. “Essentially the basis of our product is an authentic Greek double-strained yoghurt–quite different to what you get in the supermarket, which is a Greek-style yoghurt.”
When real Greek yoghurt is made, Provataris tells us it’s thick because the whey, sugar and water are strained out of the product. You can tell when it’s authentically Greek, due to the thick creamy solidity of the product, which conveniently lends itself well to being frozen.
Aside from there not being any other Greek fro-yos on the market, Provataris decided she wanted to open a store due to her own frustrations with what was being offered. “I love frozen yoghurt, and I love ice cream. I just got sick and tired of crappy toppings,” says Provataris.
The concept of good quality food is very important to the team at Blu Spoon. Toppings include all your regulars, but also offer really special items such as homemade rocky road, baklava and halva. You can also buy fresh handmade yoghurt, baklava and other Greek treats such as biscuits, which are made using what Provataris fondly calls “secret Yia Yia recipes”.
The frozen yoghurt comes in natural, pomegranate, coconut (which is dairy free), chocolate, caramelised banana, salted caramel, and one that really stands out–baklava. “It’s so unique to our business”, says Anna. “We’re trying to transform how you would normally eat baklava.” Blu Spoon has definitely built up recognition for the humble baklava, with their homemade baklava products selling like hotcakes.
Xocolatl | Kew, Canterbury and Toorak
A small family business that started in 2005, Xocolatl grew to success in Kew and Canterbury and have recently opened up a third store in Toorak. Christos Partsioglou and his two daughters Maddy and Tina run the show, creating specialty artisan chocolate. With flavours such as goat’s cheese and peach, gorgonzola and mango or chilli peanut butter, they’re injecting creative flair into their chocolate offering. “[Christos and Tina] are continuously thinking about how we can use chocolate or the cacao bean in many different applications,” Maddy Partsioglou tells us. Think degustations where every course features chocolate (a.k.a. Heaven).
Upon a trip to Japan, Christos and Jenny were inspired by the frozen chocolates they tried in one store. “They served all of their chocolates cold, and that’s something we’ve never heard of before. No one in Europe does that,” Maddy says. This inspiration led to the creation of bite-size frozen ganache at Xocolatl, available in five flavours: passionfruit, hazelnut, coconut, single origin and raspberry white chocolate. These small packages look unassuming, but the cold temperature hits the tastebuds, enhancing the rich flavour and smoothness of the tiny morsels–truly unlike anything on the market.
If you’re not mad keen on chocolate (what are you doing in a chocolate store?), Xocolatl also have a range of fruit popsicles perfect for sweltering weather (and only available in summer). You can choose from coconut and lime, mango, blueberry and lemon, mixed berry dark chocolate, raspberry and cocoa nib, banana honey, and lychee, rose and strawberry. Maddy tells us that the products are very natural. “We don’t use any artificial preservatives, we don’t add any extra sugar. No colourings or flavour enhancers, same as our chocolates.”
Pidapipó | Windsor and Carlton
The name Pidapipó is derived from an Italian version of Simon Says, a game that owner Lisa Valmorbida used to play with her Nonno. At Pidapipó, it’s all about authentic and fresh gelato. A weekly rotation of flavours celebrates the latest local produce – think vibrant blood plums or juicy mangoes – alongside a more consistent offering of popular flavours such as pistachio.
Lisa Valmorbida spent time in Italy, and even attended Carpigiani Gelato University, to learn the ins and outs of authentic gelato making techniques. After working in a gelateria based in her family’s hometown of Vicenza, she opened up the Carlton store in late 2014 after a successful experimental pop-up. Pidapipó grew such a name for flavourful and vibrant gelato that the brand ventured southside to Windsor in 2016. Now, even in winter, the procession of scoop-happy patrons seems to be never-ending at each of the Pidapipo outlets.
It’s not just the frozen sorbets and gelati that are carefully crafted at Pidapipó. The interiors of the two shops are beautifully designed and fitted out, with custom-poured bench tops that blend into the floor, and rustic plastered walls. The style is unique, but with pastel colours bringing it all together (and the occasional hanging bunches of fresh fruit), it just works.
Gelateria Primavera | CBD
The bustling crowds that visit Gelateria Primavera – attached to Spring St Grocer – aren’t just drawn to the trendy location. The gelato on offer is not only top notch, it’s also got some truly unique flavour combinations. We’re talking ricotta, lemon and olive oil, or cardamom and pistachio. Watermelon and mint, mango passionfruit and strawberry and lime sorbets take the cake for the warmer weather, but it’s the rich nutty gelati flavours that the staff rave about. With pistachios from Piedmont and hazelnuts from Bronte near Sicily, the taste and produce incorporated is noticeably indulgent.
Fresh and creamy, all the gelato is made from a Fior di Latte base, which is essentially a simple, milk-flavoured mixture. The menu changes daily, with at least one adventurous flavour on rotation. Hey, we have no problem with that–the cardamom and pistachio blew our minds!
The best bit about Gelateria Primavera is that it’s open until midnight every night except Sunday, when it’s open until 11pm. Perfect for an after-dessert dessert!
Bibelot | South Melbourne
Once upon a time there was a little cafe in South Melbourne called Chez Dre. This cafe-cum-French patisserie became so popular they decided to extend next door, turning their sweet offering into Bibelot. This expansion is a walk-in heaven for any sweet tooth, complete with cakes, macarons, chocolates and of course, ice cream.
Colourful and vibrant, the offering of flavours ranges from traditional to creative. GRAM’s pick would definitely be the mandarin and yuzu, a zingy sorbet which is surprisingly smooth and low on acid. The pistachio is a staff favourite (which we’re seeing a trend of in the frozen treat stakes!) and it’s absolutely packed full of fresh nuts, which gives it an almost warm texture in the mouth.
Of course an ice cream from Bibelot wouldn’t be complete without a generous drizzle from the chocolate tap. You can choose to line your ice cream cone with dark or milk chocolate, adding that extra touch which makes eating your cone pretty darn enjoyable.
Chill Bro Paletas | CBD
Hidden away on Menzies Lane in Melbourne Central is Chill Bro Paletas, a business run by Juan Pablo de Anda and Mathew Liang. A paleta is a Mexican-style popsicle, the name of which, Liang tells us, loosely translates to “stick” and “refreshing”; and we’d have to agree that’s a pretty apt description.
The idea came about when de Anda spotted a little push-cart in the city with bells attached to it that reminded him of paleta carts back home in Mexico. This inspired him to bring the paleta recipe to the Melburnian masses.
The creamier paleta flavours are more popular in winter, with fruit flavours getting the most attention in the warmer months. Liang tells us watermelon has been hugely popular, but they like to change it up regularly to work around produce that’s seasonal and available.
The fun part is placing the finishing touches on the paleta. The treat gets dipped in your choice of white, milk or dark chocolate, and three toppings such as Oreo crumbs, nuts, chocolate chips, sprinkles and more. The richness of the cream-based paletas lends itself well to these extra toppings, but it does end up being quite a lot to eat, so come prepared an empty stomach!
You can also find the Chill Bro Paletas at South Melbourne night market, which is on Thursday nights during the warmer months. They also cater for those looking for a quirky (and tasty) addition to weddings and events.
Pana Chocolate | Richmond
While there are plenty of vegan ice cream options around (hello sorbet!), it’s rare they’ll be accompanied with a side of vegan chocolate. Pana Chocolate in Richmond has you covered, with their delightfully cute Heart Beet ice creams. These little heart-shaped popsicles feature raspberry and beetroot ice cream, dipped in a smooth chocolate exterior.
Alternatively, you can try their collaboration with Zebra Dream, a coconut-based product that combines rich Pana Chocolate chunks with mint-flavoured ice cream. It may be refined sugar and dairy free, but it definitely isn’t lacking decadence. All Pana products are dairy, soy, gluten and refined sugar free, as well as being raw, organic and homemade.