When Sandra Foti entered the gelato business in 2016, people thought she was “crazy” for wanting to make gelato the same way it was done 100 years ago, right down to the hand squeezed lemons and roasted pistachios.
“We started off saying, ‘This is what it’s going to be and that’s how we’re going to make it’,” she says, “And it doesn’t matter if it’s the gelato, the staff, the interior, or the design, we’ve set a bar and that’s where we’re going to stay.”
Foti’s unrelenting commitment to making everything from scratch and from natural ingredients comes from her Italian heritage. Particularly, her dad.
“My dad learned how to make gelato 60 years ago in the south of Italy,” she says, “Back in the 60s it wasn’t made with tins of paste and flavouring, and there wasn’t just a big industrial space that did everything for you. You did it yourself, on-site and with natural ingredients.”
Two and a half years later, Foti has just opened the doors to the third installment of the Piccolina family, on Acland Street in St Kilda. The southside sibling joins sister stores Collingwood and Hawthorn.
With the new store, the most important thing for Foti was to remain consistent with the Piccolina brand. A piece of advice, she says, that came from her dad.
“My dad built everything he’s got from nothing. He was a typical Italian immigrant that came with nothing but a suitcase. I definitely appreciate him more now than I did growing up,” Foti says, “Sometimes I ring him and he will say things that are just so important. After our opening event he said to me you need to make sure that across all your stores there’s consistency in the product and service. Once a customer walks out unhappy you’ll never get them back.”
“So it was very important for us to create something that catered to the area and the customers...but once you’re in here, you know you’re in Piccolina.”
The untouched menu includes cult-classics like the Better Than Nutella, Salted Caramel, Honeycomb, plus their signature Pistachio. There’s also a selection of recently introduced vegan options like Passionfruit, Lemon, and Dark Choc that will leave you wondering how the heck they could possibly be vegan.
You can expect a rotating range of gelato specials too, depending on the season. Based off unbeatable foodie combinations, current options include the Bread & Jam (literally incredible), Peanut Butter w. Milk Choc Ganache, and Ricotta w. Lemon Curd & Crumble.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel, we’re just trying to give people good, traditional Italian gelato that will stand the test of time. It’s all about traditional recipes and flavours that don’t need to change because they’re classic.”
In addition to gelato, Piccolina also sells granitas, milkshakes, torroncino, jars of homemade Nutella and peanut butter, bags of honeycomb, and a variety of cakes. The extensive cake list is a curation of both Piccolina creations as well as some from their collab with Bernard Chu at LuxBite.
Image credit: Annika Kafcaloudis