It was a perfect day to visit Pagoto Gelato & Waffle House in Oakleigh, a thriving hub of Greek Melbourne. Brilliant warm sunny day – check. Lively buzz from the crowds at the outdoor cafés in Eaton Mall – check. People parading through the streets dressed in animal pelts and skulls – say what?
Over the three weeks before Lent, it is carnival time, “Apokries”. The festivities take different forms across Greece, but a common theme involves masked revellers dressing up and wandering the streets, celebrating with music and dance.
We heard the drums and bells first, the noise increasing as we neared Eaton Mall. Then we spotted the “Koudounofori” – men dressed in fur with huge bells around their waists. Faces were covered with a fur pelt, with a couple of eye holes punched through, and many of them were also wearing what looked like sheep or goat skulls. Girls were in traditional Greek costumes, and some were also masked. Drums and horns added to the festive atmosphere.
After our unexpected cultural immersion, we moved on to Pagoto Gelato & Waffle House, just around the corner from Eaton Mall. After the bright sunshine, our eyes needed a moment to adjust to the dark interior, but the pop art style murals gave a cheery atmosphere.
Pagoto is where you find Greek gelato – actually “pagoto” is Greek for ice cream. Many of the 32 flavours, all made daily in-house, are special Greek flavours that we were keen to explore. And the friendly servers were only too happy to oblige.
We moved through chocolate baklava, to galaktobouriko (custard), to rizogalo (rice pudding) and loukoumi (Turkish delight). Not to mention the Greek yoghurt with cinnamon, walnut and honey. Everything tasted good.
There are lots of other flavours, both dairy and non-dairy, but for our final choices, of course we had to choose from the Greek options.
Benny went for a single serve of watermelon and fetta – pops of saltiness from the fetta were a great contrast for the sweetness of the watermelon.
I picked two flavours – mastiha paired with visino. Mastiha (mastic) is very Greek – it is sap collected from the mastic tree, traditionally from the Greek island of Chios – with the gelato enhanced by a dusting of cinnamon. This was my first experience of mastic, and, obviously channelling some inner Greekness, I loved it – the flavour is slightly reminiscent of pine trees. My other choice, visino, is a gorgeous sour cherry, and proved to be a great match.
The gelato comes in cups or cones, as well as tubs to take away. Or on top of freshly made waffles for an extra indulgence.
Pagoto is planning a new outlet in Eaton Mall – right in the middle of the café action. And there is another Pagoto Gelato in Sydney.
The Greek twist makes for a very different gelato experience. Excellent gelato and very friendly service – we would be very happy to return (and try the waffles).
July 2018 update: Pagoto has moved into new premises at 7-9 Eaton Mall.
Pagoto Gelato & Waffle House
26 Portman Street (now at 7-9 Eaton Mall)
Oakleigh Vic 3166
T: 0418 301 333