More than just a restaurant
Laura Sartori Rimini, Roberto Peregalli (Studio Peregalli)
“Ceramic is a wonderful material. It’s an incorruptible material. We cover architecture with ceramic mosaic. Buildings too have a skin (…).”
Gio Ponti, Amate l’Architettura, 1957, Rizzoli © 2008 RCS Libri, Milano
The latest ambitious project undertaken by Italian celebrity chef Carlo Cracco, a 1,118 square metre space spanning four floors in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in central Milan, is not just a restaurant but also a venue for site-specific artworks. Developed in collaboration with Sky Arte and Cantine Ferrari, the artistic programme transforms the lunettes over the shop windows of the Galleria’s mezzanine level into spaces for exploring new languages. The inaugural work, Heterochromic by Patrick Tuttofuoco, blends art and cuisine in a profound reflection on the concept of identity. The artist used neon lights to transform the two lunettes into the eyes of Carlo Cracco and his wife Rosa Fanti, creating a single entity with different irises. On deciding to move from his historic location in Via Victor Hugo to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, known as the “Salon of the Milanese”, Cracco commissioned Milan-based practice Peregalli to design the more than 1,000 square metres of new spaces, consisting of 50 seats on the ground floor including the outdoor area, 50 seats on the first floor, and up to 100 seating and 150 standing spaces on the second floor. Architects Laura Sartori Rimini and Roberto Peregalli designed a restaurant interior that combines sobriety and sophistication while maintaining a connection with the Milanese spirit of the Galleria and the style of Gio Ponti.
The basement wine cellar with its lacquered red walls and spruce wood shelving holds over 2,000 labels and more than 10,000 bottles of wine.
All the furnishings were created by specialist artisanal companies. Special attention was devoted to the diffuse, almost theatrical lighting and to the acoustics, with sound-absorbing panels and total soundproofing of the second floor. The surface coverings are no less important and include extensive use of ceramic tiles. The designers chose the Marazzi Triennale tile (the so-called “4 volte curva” tile designed by Gio Ponti and Alberto Rosselli in 1960) in colours ivory, ochre and black for all the kitchens, one on each floor, and the Allmarble porcelain tile series in finishes Statuario and Saint Laurent for the bathrooms.
The walls in the ground-floor café are decorated with hand-painted stucco featuring a damasked motif reminiscent of drawings by Fortuny. The colour of the mosaic floor coordinates with the outside area and with the imposing original late-nineteenth-century bar counter shipped from Paris.
On the first floor, a reception area clad with grey-blue wainscoting and hand-painted wallpaper depicting large flower corollas leads into the restaurant itself, organised into three rooms and two areas reserved for private functions. But it is not just the Marazzi Triennale series that pays tribute to Gio Ponti. The celebrated Milanese architect’s creativity also provided the inspiration for the Richard Ginori dishes, designed by architects Sartori and Peregalli and produced specially for Cracco in three colour versions in keeping with the dominant palette on each of the floors.
The second floor, with exclusive access from the courtyard facing onto Via Pellico, is designed as a theatre backdrop that can be fully customised thanks to the absence of fixed furnishings apart from the large 1920s-inspired Levanto marble bar counter. A foyer and cloakroom with dark green varnished and fabric wall coverings leads into the large Sala Mengoni, where the walls are covered with a silvery-iron relief resin with a double design. The floor consists of Venetian terrazzo, while a restored nineteenth century fresco with a putti motif provided the inspiration for the decorations on the other ceilings.