Milan Design Week, Projects, Young designers
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When food design becomes a tale

A historical restaurant in the Brera Design District in Milan, Rigolo, asked 4 young designers to re-design the presentation of its 4 most iconic recipes: to taste during the Fuorisalone


First of all an admission: jthe words food and design together give me the creeps. The fault of overexposure, of course. But also the many visits to restaurants where presentation and talk ends up becoming the sort of stiff experience that I personally detest.

So I didn’t expect much from the initiative of the Ristorante Rigolo  in Largo Treves in Milan – a historic place, where you can eat very well (and abundantly) – to propose a reinterpretation of its menu classic by four designers: Vito Nesta, Elena Salmistraro and the Martinelli Venezia and Zanellato Bortotto studios.

Instead the initiative, directed by Fabio Calandri of  We R Food  (a start-up born as a catering experience and evolved as a creative catering platform) with the set design of Studio MiLO is definitely worth talking about.


Risotto alla milanese, ph Design@Large

First of all because the designers were not asked to become chefs but to interpret the restaurant’s historical recipes in the dishes with the aim of adding an element of communication, a small piece of experience available to the diner in an immediate way.

They could simply play with colors, shapes and textures, thus creating a purely aesthetic experience. Instead, designers have gone further, doing what they do best: inventing stories and expressing them through something tangible, in this case food on a plate.

I was present while the designers worked with the chef Egidio Bennati to fine-tune the dishes before the final definition of the menu. Because not everything that works on paper also works in reality. And it was wonderful to observe the creative efforts of those in the kitchen to arrive at compromise solutions that did not distort the recipes and flavors or the project-history.

There are four dishes: the caprese (by Vito Nesta), the risotto alla milanese (by Elena Salmistraro), the filetto alla Rigolo (by Marinelli Venezia) and the tiramisu (by Zanellato Bortotto). For the caprese, Nesta played on the marriage of flavors, the perfect mix from two similar but different individuals – tomato and mozzarella – staging a kind of wedding with lots of wedding rings. The risotto of the Salmistraro is served in a concave dish and covered with a square parmesan waffle with a hole in the center, from where precious saffron pistils emerge. I find splendid and interesting from the point of view of experience the idea of the parmesan to munch on its own or to drown in the rice without losing texture and crunchy texture. But the dish that amazed me the most is the Rigolo fillet. Because the recipe of his famous sauce – imported from France 60 years ago, written on a pen sheet by the owner and framed next to the countless photos of the personalities attending the restaurant – is composed of a myriad of ingredients that the diner perceives but not recognizes one by one savoring the dish. Instead in the Martinelli Venezia version all the components of the mix are also physically presented over the fillet and under the potatoes: a kind of turret whose purpose is not only to be beautiful and “different” but to accompany those who try to discover the various flavors.

It was not easy for the chef to realize the project and see it working with Vittorio Venezia – in search of the sense of the idea and how to transform it so that it worked – reminded me of the expertise of the Italian craftsmen. And the reflection on how it is true that, when in our country you are lucky enough to meet someone talented, flexibility and the desire to succeed lead far, in all areas. The menu is completed with the tiramisu, packaged in chocolate boxes that highlight the “essence”: the layering of the biscuits, the color of the ingredients, the consistency of the cream. Bon appétit


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