A designer chef in Locanda Liuzzi
Italy is a land of countless culinary specialities, where flavours and methods of preparing food often differ enormously even between locations just a few kilometres apart. So what happens when an eclectic southern Italian chef from Canosa di Puglia sets up a business in the northern coastal town of Cattolica? The person in question is Raffaele Liuzzi, owner and controversial (at least amongst critics) chef of the eponymous restaurant that stands at one end of the centrally located Via Fiume, just a short way from the sea. In spite of his irresistibly cheerful, friendly nature typical of people from the Apulia region, as a chef Liuzzi is either loved or loathed – there are simply no half measures, as the reviews published in food and wine guides go to show. He has had a passion for cooking ever since he was a child and in 2001, after settling in Cattolica, opened his own restaurant. The restaurant reflects his personality, as does the controversy surrounding his unconventional approach to management. Liuzzi is highly inventive in the kitchen and enjoys blending local flavours with those of his region of origin. But he also likes to entertain his guests, frequently interacting with them and discussing the way he prepares the dishes. As for interior design, he moulds the restaurant to his own image, continuously making small improvements. Then last year he decided to embark on extensive refurbishment of the fairly elderly interiors. But instead of contacting a professional, he chose to carry through the project on his own, applying the same creativity that he is accustomed to adopting in the kitchen. “The secret lies in knowing what you want to achieve,” he says. So is he both a chef and an architect? It’s true that food and design today go hand in hand and that everyone expresses their own creativity in different ways. But the restaurant’s design (in the broad sense of the word) is more than a little unusual, reflecting Liuzzi’s provocative character and indifference to the disapproval of others. As a result, customers may feel a little disconcerted when confronted by sugar in incense bowls or curtains made of forks and spoons, the bright red lamp holders made from upside-down coffee cups and saucers or plates decorated with liquorice coloured splashes, all personally created and served up by the chef. However, the overall aesthetic result is pleasing, in keeping with Liuzzi’s goal of achieving a refined yet down-to-earth style with universal appeal. Merit for this partly goes to a successful choice of ceramic tiles for the floors and walls. The dining room, columns included, and the bathrooms feature Kover collection porcelain tiles from Ceramiche Keope in the single colour Sugar, which coordinates perfectly with the soft colours chosen for the furnishings and finishings. The resulting atmosphere is one of warm and relaxing uniformity. Due to its extremely low thickness (4.8 mm), this tile can be installed over existing floors, cutting the costs and timeframes of the refurbishing project and avoiding the need for invasive demolition work.