Stroll into Footscray’s coolest corner, where the gelato game has reached legendary status. Meet Kariton Sorbetes, the Asian-inspired gelato store flipping the script on your regular scoop.
John Rivera and Minh Duong are the two former fine-dining chefs who’ve brought their skills to the sweet stuff. Their story is of a lockdown pivot made good.
“Our workplaces closed during lockdown so there was literally nothing to do. While kicking a soccer ball around during our one hour of socially-distanced exercise, we got talking about making and delivering Filipino-inspired gelato. It seemed like a fun and creative thing to do and would get us out of the house.
“We started Kariton Sorbetes just to bide the time until we could go back to our ‘real’ jobs….until we realised that it was quite popular. We thought we’d sell fifty tubs a week and ended up selling seventy-five tubs in one day!”
Quite popular is an understatement. Since opening their OG Footscray store on Leeds Street in January 2022, Kariton Sorbetes regularly inspires a line of hungry punters keen to sample their Asian-flavoured gelato.
The vibe? Think South East Asian-Filipino with a splash of funky freshness. Stefan Bagnoli, the mastermind architect, transformed what used to be Romans Original into a cathedral to gelato, complete with a ‘stained glass’ window separating the back and front of house and rattan panelling as a nod to Kariton’s Filipino roots.
Now, let’s talk flavours. Forget vanilla; Kariton’s all about Ube Halaya, a purple yam delight with blackberry and caramelised coconut curds. Or try the buko pandan – coconut and pandan gelato with pandan jelly and toasted rice flakes.
Everything is made in-house in small batches. There are specials too (deep fried ice cream, hello!), plus handheld treats and gelato cakes.
“We’re able to do some really cool and weird, wacky cheffy things with gelato,” laughs John. Translation: expect flavour combos that you won’t find anywhere else.
At Kariton Sorbetes, gelato isn’t just dessert; it’s a party for your taste buds. As John says “Ice cream and gelato always makes people happy. It makes you feel like a kid again.
“Everyone loves ice cream. If you don’t love ice cream, you need help!”