“We’ve always loved Richmond and have been searching for the perfect space on Swan Street for a number of years,” says Piccolina Gelateria founder Sandra Foti, who has stores in Collingwood, Hawthorn, St Kilda – and now, finally, Richmond.
Officially open today, the new gelateria is a show-stopper, with a sleek fit-out that Foti says “feels more like [that of] a refined cocktail or wine bar than an ice-cream store”. She tapped long-time collaborators Paul Hecker and Hamish Guthrie of Melbourne architecture firm Hecker Guthrie to do the design. (They’re also working on Piccolina’s two forthcoming CBD spots.)
But in Richmond, “I wanted to explore new materials and lighting, and to find new ways of presenting the pozzetti [the steel cannisters where the gelato is stored],” Foti says. “We really have considered every single element and detail in this store.”
The curved pozzetti cabinet is made of hand-formed zinc – left exposed for an industrial look – while grey, Italian-imported terrazzo benchtops and grey terracotta tiles form the main counter. And the space is illuminated with track lighting and a hand-blown, strikingly untraditional chandelier. It’s all fairly neutral, but the colourful, handcrafted menu board – designed by creative agency Projects of Imagination – provides a stylish contrast.
With plenty of spots to park yourself, this is a gelateria made for lingering. There’s custom-made solid-walnut bench seating down one side, and a round communal table (made of the same timber) in the window. Or you can pull up a stool on the street side.
As at Piccolina’s other stores, there are 17 core flavours and three rotating weekly specials, plus frappes, thickshakes, Nutella on tap, gelato cakes and shaved-ice granitas. But the Richmond location adds something new to Piccolina’s repertoire: there’s a panna (whipped cream) machine – similar to what you find in many gelaterias in Italy – so you can top your scoop with a fluffy crown.
Piccolina’s flavours don’t reinvent the wheel, but that’s the point. The range includes classics such as pistachio (a best-seller and go-to for these Melbourne chefs), honeycomb, salted caramel, strawberry and Nutella.
“[We] focus on simple, classic gelato that stands the test of time, and we make each flavour the best that it can possibly be,” Foti says. “We’ve always made our gelato in-house, completely from scratch without any preservatives or shortcuts – and that hasn’t changed. Even our nut butters come from raw, whole nuts that are roasted and ground in-house.”
A word from Foti for those who tend to stick to the same gelato flavours: give the underrated ones, such as zabaglione (an Italian dessert made with egg yolks, sugar and sweet wine), a go. It’s “still not as appreciated in Australia as it could be”, she says. “I remember my nonna making me zabaglione when I was little, and, while it’s something that I grew up with, it’s still fairly unique in Australia.”
“I’d love to see more of our customers trying some of these classics when they’re on the specials. They’re creamy and so delicious. They’ve been favourites for generations of Italians, so there’s definitely something in that.”
Piccolina Gelateria Richmond
85 Swan Street, Richmond