Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Il Melograno, Northcote by Bilby Blue

Our ongoing quest for gelato excellence brought us to Il Melograno in Westgarth Village, across the road from the Westgarth cinema. In contrast to most of the other artisan gelaterie we have visited, Il Melograno also operates as a café offering breakfast and lunch. So Benny and I planned to grab a meal before we embarked upon our gelato tasting.  

In fact, Il Melograno (translation: the pomegranate tree) is open until 10:30pm every night. After the finish of the brekkie and lunch menus at 3pm, a range of “small bites”, both savoury and sweet, is available to accompany coffee or bar drinks. It is serious about coffee – Il Melograno roasts its own coffee beans using the wood-fired Ricci method. The bar offers a number of aperitifs and cocktails, many of which involve gelato – we are talking alcoholic granitas (non-alcoholic versions are also available).

Il Melograno, Northcote, lamb ragu
Ragu bianco di agnello

Despite the industrial-style décor – polished concrete, rough timber, retro incandescent light globes, dark cavernous interior (not ideal for photographs) – it is a welcoming space, due to the cheerful staff and the enticing aroma of Italian food. There is also plenty of space between tables, which makes for a comfortable environment and keeps the noise levels manageable.

Benny was keen to try the Sicilian baked eggs, but two of the specials sounded just too enticing when recommended by our friendly waiter (specials change every two weeks). Those eggs will need to wait for another visit.

The first dish was ragu bianco di agnello – tagliatelle in a white lamb ragu with pecorino, rosemary and sage (see above pic). The ragu included long strips of carrot and parsnip (I love the nutty flavour of parsnip), and the lamb was so tender it was easily broken apart with just a fork. And as you would expect, the fresh pasta was perfectly cooked. Lovely.

Il Melograno, Northcote, baked pasta
Our other dish was conchiglioni di zucca e ricotta. The cochiglioni were round sheets of fresh pasta folded over a plump filling of pumpkin, ricotta and parmesan, placed in an earthenware dish and baked in Napoli sauce. The pasta was served in its baking dish and sprinkled with parmesan. This was magnificent, with the pumpkin adding a sweetness to the dish. It was served with slices of beautiful olive bread, which we used to mop up the Napoli sauce – yum. The bread was not baked in-house, but came from that excellent bakery, Noisette (Benny sometimes buys a Noisette loaf as a special treat).

Brioche filled with gelato is apparently a Sicilian favourite for a summer breakfast (gelato for breakfast? We’ll be in that!). We had seen this on menus elsewhere (notably at Pidapipó) – so it was a good opportunity to try something new (for us anyway) rather than sticking with our normal waffle cones. The warm brioche is split and filled with three flavours of gelato. According to the menu, the traditional choices are strawberry, lemon and pistachio, but you can choose anything from the gelato menu. Our friendly waiter advised us to head over to the gelato bar and go nuts with tasting all the flavours, so between the two of us we covered a goodly proportion of the gelato menu. (We didn’t taste everything – that would have been a bit too cheeky.)

Il Melograno, Northcote, gelato brioche
Orange infused ricotta with almonds, cardamom with lemon and fior di latte gelato brioche

All the gelato is made fresh in-house from natural ingredients, using traditional techniques with no preservatives, and is stored in lidded pozzetti. There are both dairy and non-dairy (sorbet) options, with 14 regular flavours and several daily specials. And Il Melograno offers so many ways to eat gelato…. Cups or cones, frappés (milkshakes), iced coffee, affogatto, iced or hot chocolate, granitas, cocktails, or our choice, in a brioche. No matter what form the gelato takes, servings are generous – we watched as the steady stream of gelato customers had their cones seemingly filled to the bottom rather than having just a dollop balanced on top.

We sampled cinnamon (delicately spiced), Iranian pistachio (nutty, with a delicate sweetness derived from the Iranian nuts), coffee (like a strong espresso shot – made from Il Melograno’s own beans), kumquat (very fruity, with a slight bitterness from the skin and pith that some people may not appreciate), salted macadamia (like a nutty creamy version of salted caramel) and chocolate & rosemary (excellent bitter chocolate with obvious rosemary overtones).

After our substantial lunch dishes – and the aforesaid gelato tastings – we decided to share a single brioche (see pic above). Our final choices were orange infused ricotta with almonds (stunning), cardamom with lemon (one of the daily specials, spicy with the added freshness of lemon) and fior di latte (an excellent vanilla). All of them were fantastic – rich and creamy, and our very carefully chosen flavours complemented each other as well as the soft yeasty sweetness of the brioche. It is a great way to eat gelato. The serving size was very generous, plenty to share between the two of us, but rather ambitious to eat solo after a good meal. So I reckon a gelato brioche would make a substantial, if rather decadent, breakfast for one.

Il Melograno, Northcote, iced chocolate
To finish off we had an iced chocolate, again to share. This was essentially a large serve of the Dutch chocolate gelato in a ceramic mug with a splash of milk and sprinkle of cocoa. The mug kept everything really cold, and for bitter dark chocolate fans (like us), the gelato was pure bliss.

Il Melograno, Northcote

Il Melograno, Northcote


We loved it
We loved it.


This would be the food I would be eating if I had an Italian nonna. Plus Il Melograno has some of the best gelato we have found in Melbourne. Thank goodness we don’t live within walking distance. Even so, I can see Benny and I making regular visits, for both the food and the gelato.

Find it at

Il Melograno
76 High Street
Northcote Vic 3070
Telephone: (03) 9482 2092

Il Melograno Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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