Sushiko, a return to Japanese origins
Pedram Kalhori e Anahita Asgarpour
Sushiko literally means «second-generation sushi». Today it is also a young but well-established Japanese restaurant chain employing over 1,000 people. Founded in Reggio Emilia in 2009 by Cristian Lin, an entrepreneur of Chinese origin who arrived in Italy at the age of 8 from the province of Zhejiang, it expanded rapidly from northern Italy as far as the Lazio region, associated with its simple but impactful logo: an eye with an eyebrow or a rice ball with a classic fish puff, depending on the observer’s interpretation.
The first restaurants shared a minimalist design and soft lighting, with sushi chefs working inside open kitchens. But the concepts and layouts created by the Milan-based firm Andrea Langhi in 2019 for the locations in the Serravalle Retail Park (Alessandria), Florence, Turin Rivalta and Magenta began to portray a more contemporary image of Japan, abandoning minimalism for the bright colours of signs and pictograms. In 2020, Sushiko opened restaurants in La Spezia, Bologna, Siena, Marina di Massa, San Rocco al Porto, San Donà, Savona Segrate, Zane and Ferrara, where the new concept was entrusted to two young Italian-Iranian architects based in Reggio Emilia: Pedram Kalhori and Anahita Asgharpour. Following an in-depth visual and architectural study, they devised «Back to the Origin», a project that was conceived with the precise intention «of paying tribute to Japanese roots by redesigning spaces and details through a combination of iconic Japanese design elements reproposed in a modern style», explains Kalhori.
A comfortable, warm and essential atmosphere welcomes guests right from the entrance, with its wood-panelled walls and gold elements. The spacious, rectangular dining room seats about 80 guests and is enclosed by two long walls decorated with rigorous wood panelling and decorative light fixtures, the rustic concrete effect contrasting with a smooth pastel-coloured wall. Its visual centrepiece is the «sushi box», a wooden and gold lath structure that frames the window looking onto the open kitchen.
The flooring is the second focal element of the restaurant and underpins its concept. The central carpet, inspired by a Japanese tatami mat, is made of porcelain stoneware slabs from Casalgrande Padana’s Cemento collection chosen in the large 60×120 cm size, colour grey and Rasato finish, and serves as the focal point for the organisation of the entire room. The distinctive finish echoes the concrete wall, creating a sense of two-dimensional spatial cohesion while the dark strips of the Resina Nero collection accentuate the design of the tatami mat and the subdivision of the different areas of the room. Exquisite details are also found in the covering of the bar counter, where the dark marble-effect slabs from the Marmoker collection, colour Nero Creta, were used in a 60×120 cm size.
The unmistakable details typical of the Japanese tradition adopted for Sushiko’s new concept reinforce the image sought by Lin, creating spaces that are youthful, elegant and in harmony with the food.