Pidapipo’s first location, a pop-up gelato “Test Lab” arrived in Carlton in 2013. The gelateria went on to become one of the city’s biggest names in gelato – with Melburnians gladly lining up for a scoop in Carlton, Windsor and the CBD.
Almost a decade later, co-founders and siblings Jamie and Lisa Valmorbida took Pidapipo full circle – returning to the lab concept but extrapolating in a big way with their Fitzroy flagship, Pidapipo Laboratorio.
Located on Brunswick Street’s northern end – in a former bank built in the 1960s – Pidapipo’s flagship store is bigger and more ambitious than its predecessors. This dessert destination is all about innovation and experimentation, with much more than just gelato going for it.
At the front, the store offers just eight limited-edition flavours, scooped from stainless-steel pozzetti, which rotate by the week, the day or even the hour, depending on how small the batch is. The focus is on specialty ingredients coming together into distinctive flavours. And any hits are then rolled out to other Pidapipo stores. You might find surprising flavour combinations like zingy Meyer-lemon sorbetto; goat’s yoghurt and saffron; and Fruits of the Forest (a creamy vegan berry number).
There are also extravagant gelato cakes stacked high in glass freezers. From classic Ferrero Rocher to Sicilian cassata and Neapolitan bombe alaska, they’re inspired by Milan’s pasticcerie (pastry shops) and nostalgic treats. A few are available by the slice.
In the adjacent space, trained chocolatiers work away in a dedicated temperature-controlled chocolate room. They might be making single-origin chocolate – using cacao from the Dominican Republic – with a balance of sugar and fat designed to complement the gelato.
Meanwhile, upstairs, urban beekeeper Nic Dowse of Honey Fingers cultivates honey on the rooftop.
The space was designed by Dion Hall (Supernormal, Her) as a futuristic reimagination of old-school pasticcerie and science labs. The brown-brick facade was left untouched; inside, find stainless steel everywhere, and an electronic, stock-exchange like menu. The expansive kitchen is visible from the street through large windows adjoining Brunswick Street.
The centrepiece, though, is an immersive ceiling-light installation, which is meant to echo eating gelato under the Italian sun, says Valmorbida. Sometimes, it’s also used to reflect the rotating specials. (Trying one of them is almost as good as witnessing said sunset.)
As always, the music is pumping in Pidapipo Laboratoria. And keeping on-theme, staff wear lab coats and chef’s hats by Perks and Mini (PAM) – all that’s missing is the lab goggles.
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