Kariton Sorbetes opens Filipino ice-cream shop in Footscray

Kariton Sorbetes co-founder John Rivera, who is channelling Filipino food and culture into wildly creative scoops of gelato.
Kariton Sorbetes co-founder John Rivera, who is channelling Filipino food and culture into wildly creative scoops of gelato. Photo: Scott McNaughton

Two years into the pandemic, the most successful side-hustles are blossoming into fully realised businesses. Exhibit A is Kariton Sorbetes, with its fabulously fun gelato and sorbets going from home-delivered tubs to a shop on bustling Leeds Street in Footscray.

Chefs John Rivera (ex-Lume) and Minh Duong (ex-Maha) created the online business in August 2020 expecting to sell about 50 tubs a week. But their elevated riffs on Filipino mainstays such as ube halaya (purple yam) and the sweet-savoury cheese flavour keso attracted 75 orders on day one.

From Saturday, the pair will be scooping these and 10 other unique flavours into cups and cones for the first time, as well as offering two soft-serve flavours and hand-held treats inspired by the Maxibon and Golden Gaytime.

"We want the ice-cream cart to travel all around the world, starting with Asia," says Rivera.

The small shop, formerly Roman's Original bar, mixes traditional Filipino features with galvanised metal, rustic plasterwork and brightly coloured glass to evoke a south-east Asian street scene.

There are counters to lean on while eating your gelato, a view through to the production kitchen and even ice-cream van music.

Hand-held treats will join the gelato and soft-serve.
Hand-held treats will join the gelato and soft-serve. Photo: Scott McNaughton

"It will probably drive me insane but I want everyone who walks into the shop to feel like a kid again," says Rivera.

Rivera and Duong's fine-dining training shines through in the fresh fruit they source and prepare by hand, use of imported Filipino coffee beans and chocolate, and transformation of national dishes such as leche flan and champorado (a chocolate rice porridge) into ice-cream form.

Fan favourites such as ube ("the vanilla of the Philippines," says Rivera) will be joined by rotating specials such as the malted milk-based Milo Dinosawr and Thrilla in Vanilla, featuring Papua New Guinean vanilla pods and Gippsland Jersey milk.

Open Wed-Thu 2pm-9pm, Fri 2pm-10pm, Sat noon-10pm, Sun noon-9pm.

50 Leeds Street, Footscray, karitonsorbetes.com