What does comfort mean? It can mean the consistency of an idea, a sensation of wellbeing or a sense of familiarity generated by memory. This was the theme of the encounter between Patricia Urquiola and Andrea Berton (respectively from Spain and Friuli, both living in Milan), hosted in the B&B Italia showroom.

The special guest was Gualtiero Marchesi, who hailed Berton as the “master of all Italian cuisine, and my mentor, since I spent 8 years of my professional life with him.”

“Comfort, for me,” the designer said, “is real, physical, as in the case of the latest sofa, Butterfly, I have designed for the B&B Italia outdoor collection. But it is also mental, and this is the dimension that interests me most. An object has to be comfortable for its form and material, but it also has emotional values. It can be interpreted as energy, and in this sense it is related to food.”

The prize-winning chef immediately took the cue: “for me comfort means always creating new stimuli and emotions, starting with visual perception, because a well-presented dish makes tasting more interesting. But you also have to consider the comfort of the space. I have opened my restaurant in a new, modern zone, Porta Nuova, to have the impression of starting over again, from scratch; it is a pleasant space in which to have a 360-degree dining experience.”

The professional approach of Berton and Urquiola involves the ability to innovate and to take risks. “To create you really have to get out of your comfort zone,” the designers says. “I would not have become a designer had I not left Oviedo to go to Madrid and then Italy, without crutches. I have always sought challenges, though we all need to be able to return to our own little space. Cocooning is necessary.”

“I too have gotten out of my comfort zone, driven by curiosity,” says the chef. “Before the Berton restaurant I broke the ice opening two spaces far from my working background, the Dry pizzeria on Via Solferino, light years from my way of seeing cuisine, and Pisacco, across the street, a bistro with simple, quick cuisine for everyday dining.”

Both are daring innovators, though they never forget the meaning of memory. “For me the dish of memory is broth, and in fact I have a menu where each dish comes with a different broth, served in a cup or poured on the plate, or treated so it is like a cream. A divertissement I enjoy making for customers.”

Fun and familiarity are in store for the clients of 10 leading restaurants in Bilbao that serve up local tap water in a ceramic pitcher designed by Urquiola, commissioned by the city and appreciated for its link to community memory, “because it is based on an object found in the civic museum, an ancient wooden vessel used in the Basque Country to contain goat’s milk.”

Speaking of Milan, Berton called it “the Italian food capital, in terms of variety and quality; a city that still has much to offer, if it is willing to engage in some self-criticism, a condition for growth.” The evening concluded with a tasting of risotto with Mediterranean herbs created by Berton, and the curiosity of a project in Ibiza done by Patricia Urquiola/Ferran Adrià, which promises to be quite surprising. (K.C.)


Photo Luca Rotondo

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From left, Patricia Urquiola, Federico De Cesare Viola (moderator), Andrea Berton
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Patricia Urquiola
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Andrea Berton