Sandra Foti, owner of Piccolina Gelateria, grew up eating her father’s Italian homemade gelato. To this day, she’s never found anything comparable anywhere else in Australia.

With 15 years of experience learning from her father, and with traditional gelato recipes in her possession, Foti quit her day job as a graphic designer. She went to Italy to master her craft, and has returned home to open her own gelataria in Hawthorn.

“It occurred to me that there was a gap in the market for real, authentic gelato with no nasties – meaning no artificial ingredients, food additives, preservatives, thickeners, gelatines or colours,” says Foti. There are a few gelato-makers in the city with a similar philosophy, Pidapipo and Billy Van Creamy among them, but not so much in Melbourne’s east.

While authentic Italian gelato is soft, runny and bursting with natural flavour, the process of making it the old-fashioned way has its drawbacks in a business sense.

“It’s very labour intensive to extract natural flavours. And because every component of the gelato is made using raw ingredients, it takes a lot longer to make, costs more to make and has a much shorter shelf life than regular ice-cream,” says Foti.

One of the most labour-intensive flavours to create is the “bread, butter and jam” gelato. Foti bakes the bread in-house and sources fresh blueberries or figs from local farms to make the jam from scratch, too.

Piccolina Gelateria offers more than 20 all-natural and seasonal gelato, sorbetti and granita flavours, including pistachio; salted caramel; passionfruit; coconut and watermelon; mint; and lime. Foti insists you enjoy it just like the Italians do: with a freshly baked Italian brioche bun.

Piccolina was a term of endearment used by Foti’s Sicilian nonna when Foti was a child. It means “little one” in Italian and represents the beginning of Foti’s love for gelato. It also reflects the humble, home-style nature of the gelateria.

It’s a cosy space, but it makes a bold statement. Award-winning design team Paul Hecker and Hamish Guthrie drew inspiration from 1950s Italy to create bright-blue walls with subtle shading and geometric shapes.

The aromas of nuts toasting and fresh fruit being chopped in front of you is all part of the experience, and makes choosing flavours a tougher process.

Piccolina Gelateria
802 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn

Daily 11.30am–10.30pm