The Piccolina empire – which includes gelaterias in Collingwood (its flagship), Hawthorn and St Kilda – is about to double. Owner Sandra Foti has just announced that she’s opening a trio of new locations by Christmas.

Two will be in the CBD – on Hardware Lane and Degraves Street – and as for the third, Foti is remaining tight-lipped for now.

Acclaimed Melbourne architecture firm Hecker Guthrie is heading up design for all three gelaterias. And Foti says when you stop in for a scoop, “It’ll feel almost like sitting in a bar that just happens to be serving ice-cream.”

The Hardware Lane site is on the corner opposite Kirk’s Wine Bar, and its fit-out will lean into the building’s heritage features, “really, really high” ceilings and leadlight windows. Meanwhile, the pint-sized Degraves Street site will be more of an upmarket hole-in-the-wall. Both will have indoor and outdoor seating.

In true Piccolina fashion, the gelati will be hidden under lids in pozzetti (deep steel cannisters), and the line-up of flavours – and add-ons, such as Nutella on tap – will mirror what’s available at the existing locations. (The crowd-favourite honeycomb, Nutella and salted caramel will soon be a little easier for city dwellers to access.)

All production will remain in Collingwood, where a team of 15 gelati-makers and pastry chefs churn out fresh gelati daily, and it will be delivered to the other five outposts.

Foti was pushing for a November opening, “But the whole Covid situation means everything’s just taken longer – it’s hard to work through designs for three new sites over Zoom.”

However, for Foti, growing the Piccolina brand is about more than just opening new gelaterias. “It’s a scary time, the city’s abandoned,” she says. “But this is us saying we’re not abandoning our city. We want to be part of what the next stage looks like. And we’ve gotta dig deep emotionally – and creatively – to get there.”

“[Covid] is not gonna last forever, we’ll get out of it. But the only way out of it is straight through it.”

Piccolina will open at 43 Hardware Lane and 32 Degraves Street – and at a third secret location – before Christmas.