“A paradox. This place is a paradox: not a bar, not a pastry shop, not a bistro, not a restaurant, not a lounge, but all those things wrapped into one. Because designing something for a chef is one thing, and designing something for Filippo La Mantia – one red blood cell, one white one, one Sicilian – is another. I already had the experience of the project for his dining rooms at the Majestic Hotel in Rome. It is an adventure, every day is different. Like his idiosyncrasy for garlic and onions, which I tried to exorcise, giving him a basketful… but made of marble. A prank”.
Piero Lissoni talks about the recent renovation and restyling project in Milan for “Filippo La Mantia – host and chef” from Palermo. As he identifies himself on the glass entrance door, with a stylized image of the island, framed by two flourishing lemon trees. The new address is Piazza Risorgimento in the capital of Expo 2015, previously the location of the venue Gold of Dolce & Gabbana.
“Not a very Milanese place, actually, in terms of concept”, Lissoni continues. “Imagine an international world in a big city, under the same roof, open from early morning to late at night, a place you can eat at any time of day, from breakfast to the wee hours, but also buy a tray of pastries to take home…and a place to organize events, to have a work meeting or just to enjoy socializing at the shared tables, in a convivial dimension that is not very Milanese.
We have tried to make every zone special, designing very different areas for flexible uses. As in a home, where there are panels, cups and books, sofas, armchairs, carpets, lots of chairs and lots of different ways to sit down at the same table. Because in the end this is Filippo’s home, not just the place of his traditional Sicilian cuisine. It contains his beloved pottery and porcelain, organized in cases, an old BMW motorcycle, musical instruments, photographs, personal notes of a path of life, not just of work”.
True quality always lies in knowing how to mix different worlds in interior design: to touch walls without touching them, as in this case, 1800 mq on two levels (plus a technical and service basement); to give the spaces a soul, emotions, with a luminous concert of technical lights hidden in the suspended ceilings, but also on the floor, generating both delicate and iconic presences; to emphasize the intimate setting developed for relaxation, also in the choice of the materic-chromatic palette based on lava and earth tones, lit up by bronzed metals and the play of reflections of the mirrors, or the varnished and aged bamboo perimeter screens, with shadows etched by light on their surfaces.
Lissoni knows how to do all this like a great master, as Filippo La Mantia is quite aware: “Piero’s design represents me perfectly: linear geometries, clean forms, essential figures, functional quality and comfort, all designed with tailor-made care. What I like about him is that he manages to make a place warm, by paradox, even with a single table.
Absolutely, even before I met him and got to know him, I appreciate the rigor of his pieces, and in fact in my house in Rome there are many of furnishings of his design. With him, I had already shared in the multisensory experience of the dining rooms at the Majestic in Rome, where I worked for 15 years and gained awareness of the ingredients needed to make a place ‘work’: image, acoustic comfort, and the fundamental study of lighting; here I have been able to eliminate the approximately 200 candles per day I was using in the capital; beautiful tables, even when they are not set: you shouldn’t sense the lack of a tablecloth, the top has to convey an idea of comfort with its consistency”.
And above all, two large custom-made tables, with screen-printed antique maps of Sicily covered in satin-finish glass, for striking visual impact on the ground floor, featuring glass perimeter walls and conceived, in the succession of zones, as a more open, informal space with respect to the upper level, with the a la carte restaurant, two private rooms but with a flexible configuration thanks to sliding partitions, and the dessert workshop enclosed in a mirror-finish volume, a technical kitchen concealed from prying eyes, and a Boffi monoblock kitchen for show cooking.
“Lissoni and I have a sort of elective affinity”, La Mantia continues. “Just as he, as an architect, likes to interpret a place with extraordinary research on objects, combinations and finishes, so I as a chef-host like to pay careful attention to my work, taking care of clients, trying to make them feel good, amidst beautiful things, materic references and suggestions that are as important as food, because they link to the memory of something else: postcards from a trip to Sicily, encountered in a sensorial, instinctive cuisine, a sense of a space that could be reproduced at home, without too much complication, without architectural sophistry that would run the risk of ruining an engaging, satisfying atmosphere”.
photos by Santi Caleca
text by Antonella Boisi