The outdoor seating of Camparino at the entrance of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele from piazza Duomo in Milan.
amparino. The name alone evokes moments of joyous anticipation for a few hours of tranquility in good company with a bright red cocktail in your hands, especially now that it has been able to reopen after the long months of lockdown. There is actually much more to this little bar in the heart of the city center. It has been the symbolic site of the Milanese aperitivo since back in 1915 when it was inaugurated by Davide Campari, son of the creator of the celebrated bitter, Gaspare Campari.
To start off, we are in a galleria, The Galleria, Vittorio Emanuele II’s, Milan’s “drawing room” next to the Duomo. History shows that already in 1867—more or less in front of the current location while they were finishing construction on the Galleria—Gaspare inaugurated the Caffè Campari in classic Empire style. Forty-eight years later it was followed by the inauguration of the small Bar di Passo with its drinks strictly served while standing at the bar and an innovative system that guaranteed the continual flow of sparkling water from the basement in order to always offer chilled Campari and soda: Camparino.
Essentially unchanged to this day, with the refined imagery of the art nouveau floral interiors, it quickly became an institution, a privileged meeting place for artists, musicians and writers.
Its restyling, designed by Lissoni Casal Ribeiro (the new name of the architectural offshoot of the studio of Piero Lissoni ever since he united his name to that of his principal partner Miguel Casal Ribeiro), fully respects the location’s history both on an aesthetic and social level, starting from the most famous space, those few cubic meters that are higher than they are wide at the corner of the porticos and galleria called Bar di Passo. Here the restoration project has recovered the existing elements—the famous bar of the furniture maker Eugenio Quarti, the mosaics by the painter Angelo d’Andrea and the wrought iron chandeliers of the master Alessandro Mazzucotelli – intervening solely on the lighting of the wonderful coffer ceiling.
In the walkway that leads to the outdoor seating, the style begins to get renewed, anticipating the touches of modernity inserted upstairs in the Sala Spiritello, a name that derives from the illustration by Leonetto Cappiello in 1921, which became a symbol of the Campari brand.
Overlooking the Galleria, the room develops around a large mirror-covered bar with a ribbed effect. The Venetian flooring, the walnut wood paneling and a bright false-ceiling create a contemporary visual look suspended between the modern and a respect for historical heritage, delivering a message of innovation that gets paired with the new cocktail & food proposals by Davide Oldani. The starred-chef gives an almost-forgotten traditional dish a haute cuisine interpretation: pan’cot, mom’s classic recipe with bread softened in water and milk and then put back in the pan, here included with intriguing gourmet variants.
Instead, there is a completely new underground level that held the bar’s stockroom. Transformed into a room for tasting events and meetings, and dedicated to Gaspare Campari, it is characterized by an intimate and elegant atmosphere. There are various historical references like the vault lamps that recall the design of the rosettes from the Galleria’s flooring and the wooden bar recovered from the first floor.
“In this project we wanted to be as ‘silent’ as possible” remarks Pietro Lissoni, “while attempting to be honest and sincere with historical part of the location…”
WHERE: Piazza Duomo 21, corner Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milan, Italy
HOURS: Mon. – Fri. 8:30 a.m. - 12:00 a.m. / Sat. 9:00 a.m.- 12:00 a.m./ Sun. 9:00 a.m.- 10:00 p.m.
PHOTOS: Courtesy Lissoni Associati - Credits © Santi Caleca
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