As streets of formerly animated neighborhoods sit empty, two new Milan restaurants wait quietly for the world to come out of coronavirus hibernation. Iyo Aalto and Røst, which opened in November 2019 and February 2020 respectively, contrast each other in theme and design but carry a similar commitment to locally produced materials, a focus which is bolstered by Covid-19’s revelation of globalization’s weaknesses.
Culinary History with Contemporary Class
Røst, a restaurant whose dining area and bar total 65 square meters, focuses on traditional Northern Italian cuisine from local producers. Through their name and their menu, Røst emphasizes the history of Italian culinary heritage. The name is eponymous with a small Norwegian island where Venetian patrician Pietro Querini, whose family was famous for Malvasia wine production, was rescued from a storm by fishermen in 1432. While on the island, Querini and his crew learned to prepare cod, which later became a Venetian specialty on the menu at Røst.
Designers Vudafieri-Saverino Partners draw from this history to create a space that reflects both tradition and modernity through color choices and materials. The dominating tone is a Marsala red to reference the wine that the Querini family traded, and principle materials are locally sourced lime, brass and oak.
Image credit: Røst restaurant in Milan. Photo by Santi Caleca.
“All the materials used in the project come from Italian producers and retailers. The coverings used in the smaller room, kitchen and bathroom are made by a Milan brand, Minimal48. All furniture – both standard and custom-made – are produced in Italy. Tables, chairs and counter are created by 100% Design Group, a distributor and contractor from Aosta also based in Milan,” designer Tiziano Vudafieri told ArchiExpo e-Magazine.
The topic of hygiene has always been essential in restaurant design, and not just during a pandemic, which influenced the design of Røst.
“Smooth and flawless materials were chosen to prevent residues from remaining inside. Even walls in natural lime, apparently textural, are very washable,” according to Vudafieri.
The Røst “Wall of Fame” incorporates in the design the producers that supply Røst their ingredients, with sixteen ceramic plates representing each of them.
Japanese-inspired Italian Authenticity
After Michelin star awarded Iyo Taste Experience, Iyo Aalto is the Iyo group’s second restaurant. The 320 square meter location contains an open kitchen, a wine cellar and two dining rooms, the large “Gourmet Restaurant” and the more intimate “Sushi Banco”. Open space shaped by non-continuous walls create clean lines inspired by Japanese design. Maurizio Lai, Italian architect who designed Iyo Aalto, chose natural materials; Canaletto walnut, porphyry, brass and leather. When asked if he was concerned about how natural materials might hold up to heavy cleaning in the fight against Covid-19 spread, Lai told ArchiExpo e-Magazine:
“It would seem that the natural material degrades the virus more quickly and that the virus stays on more compact surfaces such as steel and plastic for a longer time, and so they need harder cleaning.”
However, there is still a lot he says he does not yet know about this new reality. Regardless, he said that health and safety have always been primary concerns when planning and designing a restaurant.
“The kitchen lives like a world in itself, perfectly isolated: communication with the outside is already managed in an automated way, through openings regulated by sensors, while the rooms are equipped with adequate volumetric air exchange.”
All of Iyo Aalto’s furniture is custom made by the Italian company Poliform Contract.
“We worked in close contact with the Contract division of Poliform to gain the maximum benefits of assigning the project to a single manufacturer who could guarantee not only the design outcome but also a reliable high-quality supply chain,” Lai told ArchiExpo.
While Lai highlights working with Italian furniture manufacturers, he knows that materials sometimes come from international companies:
“We will continue to support Italian artisans and manufacturers in the future, even more so in such a difficult situation. The whole supply chain is extremely interdependent though. We have been sourcing products and materials from European companies as well: from Spain, Portugal, Belgium and the Netherlands, where some manufacturers stand out for research, development and pricing. We endorse the openness of the architecture and design market.”
Hints of the restaurant’s more recent history have also been incorporated into the design. The porphyry floor is a remaining feature from the auto-parts shop that preceded Røst in the same space. A chandelier designed by TizianoVudafieri, an assembly of automobile headlamps from different decades, is a tribute to the restaurant’s former life.
In the wake of Covid-19, Vudafieri-Saverino said they continue to stand behind the use of natural components:
“The polymorphic nature of this virus is still to be fully understood, but we don’t think the watershed will be between ‘natural’ and ‘artificial’. Instead, porous vs waterproof, rough vs sleek, easily cleanable and washable, will be features that might affect design in the future.”