Restaurant, Chocolate shop, Hosteria, Caffè, Gallery, Bookstore: Larte comes up with a new term, a key word, a definite article deprived of its apostrophe, reflecting the L-shaped layout of this venue that since 1 October has been open in the heart of Milan, at Via Manzoni 5, in the building where Carlo Emilio Gadda was born.
With an area of 400 m2 and a futuristic spirit, it is like a manifesto of crossovers and dynamism: “It narrates the high quality of Italian life, in terms of food, lifestyle, creativity and culture, everyday rituals and customs, a global polysensorial experience,” says Davide Rampello, president and creative director of Larte (and of the artistic content of Expo 2015). “It references the historic traditions and specific hospitality of our territory. The exclusive offerings of coffee, chocolate, wine, dining, but also artworks, poetry and books in a suitable architectural setting, featuring fine design and image, provide a way of revitalizing that coincides with knowledge of a taste and a style. That narration of this Italian character is done by specially trained personnel. The wine list and dishes on the menu, done with ink drawings, are joined by the items on sale in the store: from paintings to design furnishings, wines to footwear, and potentially everything else you can imagine.” A truly stimulating concept. After all, it is the work of a group of partners of Altagamma: Alessi, Artemide, Baratti & Milano, Bellavista, Ca’ Del Bosco, Caffarel, Cantine Ferrari, Capri Palace Hotel, illycaffè, MK Consulting, Federico Regalia, Sanpellegrino, Santo Versace, all excellent companies in their respective sectors. A team that has worked with the executive vice-president Roberto Morelli of illycaffè and the advisor Ermanno Zanini, general manager of the Capri Palace Hotel. “With an eye on Expo 2015, we are setting off from Milan towards the rest of the world,” Rampello continues, who has not only selected products, objects, books and artworks for this new center in Milan, but also supervises the constant evolution of the range of offerings. “Our program is planned to accompany the restaurant side with frequent variations, inviting other chefs to interpret the variety and specificities of Italian regions. Each chef will leave the ‘legacy’ of a personal recipe, and there will also be owners of inns and producers of wines and foods. We are working on a true pantry with exceptional products, which you can also have at home, upon request. A formula we plan to reproduce in other contexts as well, perhaps in Dubai or Istanbul, where the spirit of the place remains the same, but the substance will be quite different in terms of implementation.” Specifically, the task has been brilliantly carried out by Lorenzo Morganti/Grixoni Service, in charge of the architectural and interior design, and by Marco Bravo/Nu Bureau, responsible for the exhibit design and visual communications. “The input was to create a neutral spatial setting, but one with strong character, capable of establishing a dialogue through ongoing materic- chromatic connections, tactile ton-sur-ton situations, with the many protagonists of the space,” they explain. “Not chilly, not over the top, mixing ‘metropolitan’ gray tones with warmer, more earthy hues. Together with glass and bronze-tone oxidized steel, raw plaster and many cement finishes, in different accents, from the rugged surfaces of the walls to the soft tabletops. All of which is balanced out by the surfaces in glass and linen, or with cotton canvas, a truly theatrical setting to enhance the works of art and design on display.” In architectural terms, Morganti explains, “the project attempts to evoke subtle aspects of the Italian territory, confirming the axis of Via Manzoni as the reference in the flooring, and creating an abstract landscape in the jagged surface of the new ceiling. The internal composition of the spaces also owes much to our traditions. Almost classical for the cafe-bar on Via Manzoni, with small linear tabledisplay cases, but also a full-height accessorized wall of great impact, for graphic and product installations. The line traced by the bar counter continues beyond it, blending with the display case for the chocolate and creating a single front with the cases in the art gallery. Then, at the end of the gallery, positioned in the joint between the two arms of the L, the kitchen is the beating heart of the whole project. It is central, as in most Italian homes, a focal point in perspective, always visible from the adjacent spaces: the true dining room with light from a winter garden, and the more secluded conversation area. This resemblance to domestic spaces is confirmed in the partial change of key of the furnishings: the seats become upholstered armchairs, the tables in the privé classics of Italian design, like the Reale tables by Carlo Mollino, while the walls have the patina of the Milanese ‘salotto’ par excellence: Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.” The large glazings that contain a thin veil of natural canvas are one of the project guidelines. They are very important in the definition of the “displayscreens” that guarantee visibility for the products and privacy of customers, as in the configuration of the “kitchen-boudoir” that reveals its secrets without sacrificing the seductive game of peek-a-boo. Another strong point is represented by the fiber-reinforced cement pegs that can be removed from the délabré walls to create always new compositions, with a winery in the innermost part. The Italian character of the products utilized, from the materials to the design furnishings, is completed by the artworks chosen by Rampello with the consulting of Finarte/Stefano Zorzi and the association of Italian art dealers. “Modern and contemporary art,” he explains. “Because Italy has always produced very high expressions of artistic languages. Especially from the postwar era on, casting its influence all over the world. Just consider G. Griffa, F. Messina, A. Pomodoro, T. Scialoja, F. Simeti.” Just some of the first names in the everyday evolution of Larte.