In these spartan spaces – a sequence of four rooms facing the street, marked by the rhythm of the vaults, thick walls and high ceilings in local limestone – Corrado Nicolaci, Prince of Villadorata, left the Belludia wines of his estate to ripen.
That was once upon a time, when he lived in the city on the upper floors, in the artistic splendor of Palazzo Nicolaci, a noble Baroque building designed by Rosario Gagliardi with his student Vincenzo Sinatra, from 1720 to 1765.
Times have changed, and in a private wing of this venerable estate Cristina Summa has created the renowned boutique hotel Seven Rooms, while for the cellars she called on Gordon Guillaumier, a designer based in Milan but born on the island of Malta, with a house in Noto as well.
The genesis of Manna is written: as the name implies, from biblical skies or the Madonie area where grapes are still grown and harvested, this is an agreeable restaurant, full of grace, elegance and culture.
“Three years have passed since the opening,” Guillaumier says. “The fluid approach has led to the composition of a soft, harmonious narrative. The place is flexible, dynamic, open to new episodes, like the recent outdoor dining area.
What the eyes see on the walls and in the surroundings corresponds to that cultural melting pot of north and south that is also found in the dishes prepared by the chef Gioacchino Brambilla from Bergamo, in charge of the restaurant together with Roberta Assolari and Manuela Alberti, created with seasonal local ingredients. And there’s more. At Manna,” he continues, “you can also find Lombard regional specialties alongside Sicilian recipes.”
Where the design is concerned, Guillaumier has tried to keep the intervention as light as possible, complying with the volumes and materials of the spaces, as well as the demands of the heritage authorities (no simple task).
Each of the four rooms has been personalized through the layout of the furnishings, tables and chairs, as well as the lights, all featuring iconic design objects. These elements determine the atmosphere in the various zones, also through colors and facing materials that play with contrast with the pale, natural tones of the enclosure.
“I liked the idea of combining the artisan aspect with the study of the decor,” Gordon emphasizes, “through choices connected with the territory. So I have used majolica tiles, earthenware glazed by hand in Caltagirone, monochrome for the bar counter, the wall behind it, the facings in the restrooms.
The tables have tops in glazed volcanic stone. The chairs are all different, with the shared trait of the black color that goes nicely with the blue of the collections of plates on the walls, found in flea markets, while the custom bookcases in iron by Antonino Sciortino, art works by Sergio Fiorentino and two large silkscreens on sheet metal for the doors of the restrooms, alias Adam and Eve, by Lucas Cranach, add a touch of humor to the project.”
There are pieces of retro taste, to bring a range of nuances to the interiors while avoiding the clichés of local crafts and decoration. “The luminous Saiga Soda sign in the entrance is a vintage object I found in Milan,” he concludes, “which might not fit in with the rest, but brings an amusing accent to the space.”
(Text by Antonella Boisi – Ph. Alberto Ferrero)
The outdoor space on Via Rocco Pirri, a recent addition.
The entrance hall with the 1950s bistro-style bar, each place marked by an industrial metal stool (produced in 1933 by Nicolle) and a Naska Loris reading lamp by Fontana Arte; the luminous Saiga Soda sign stands out on the wall covered with monochrome majolica tiles, made by hand in Caltagirone. The shiny brass chandelier is by Gino Sarfatti (produced in 1950 by Arteluce).
The fourth room with the extra-long Dutch table in solid beech, metal screen chairs by Harry Bertoia for Knoll International, custom fixtures in colored wire, with tops in enameled metal and ceramic lamps. This space faces the inner courtyard of Palazzo Nicolaci, leading to the street of the same name with the ascent of the Infiorata.
The original wine rack in iron, custom-made, screening two rooms in a theatrical way without closing off the spaces. In the background, the room with the Iblea table by Desalto, customized with a top in non-glazed volcanic stone, and the Gustav chairs by Gordon Guillaumier for Gebrüder Thonet Vienna. On the wall, a large original 1950s chandelier by Angelo Lelli for Arredoluce.
The room with central tables made with volcanic stone tops, glazed by hand in blue, and the all black seats by GTV (Gustav), Vitra (Eames Plastic Side Chair), forming a contrast with the pale enclosure in local stone. On the wall, a work by Sergio Fiorentino.
The space with small tables for two against the wall, Nordic J110 Chairs by Hay, Lampe de Marseille wall lamps by Nemo (design Le Corbusier), and the custom bench-settee with cushions covered in raw linen fabric.