One of the things I like so much about modern, highly developed cities like New York and London and their public spaces (like restaurants and bars) is the richness and exquisite taste they exhibit in interior design. I am always wowed by the dynamism created with just the right lighting, seating arrangement, and color scheme. Of course, the product (food or drink) better be good too.
While many places in Milan are still styled in the gilded Italianate tradition, newer spots are typically well executed, elegant, and modern. The newest trend is a cross-pollination between fashion houses and bars or restaurants—in this case the Prada Group, headed by designer Miuccia Prada, and Pasticceria Marchesi, a historic Milanese destination for caffe e dolci.
Marchesi was founded in 1824 on Corso Magenta, in one of the oldest parts of the city. In 2014, Prada purchased an 80% stake in the company and opened a satellite location along Via Montenapoleone in the heart of the fashion district.
Since it is at street level and nestled in next to Versace and Omega, this location is cramped, hectic, and as I would imagine, not the serenity sought by true connoisseurs. It’s for tourists.
Using space above its mens store inside Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a third location opened at the end of August this year, with spacious rooms designed both to emulate the style of Marchesi and that of Miuccia’s own imagination, which often falls within the the style of The Grand Budapest Hotel. Her aesthetic is so all-encompassing, it feels like being on a movie set.
I am biased, though. I already like Miuccia as a person, from her interviews and opinions, and her fashion, so it’s natural that I would enjoy her fantastical, technicolor interiors and impeccable use of texture. Velvet sofas, anyone?
Green is my favorite color.
Prada retail stores have a similar style, with lots of charcoal, green, brown, and textural warmth against cold elements.
Other aspects of the Marchesi experience in the Galleria are positive too. Up a flight of stairs or short elevator ride, it is calmer than the other locations. My sacher torta (chocolate ganache, cake, and fruit jam) and caffe shakerato (cold coffee and sugar shaken with ice) were excellent, though the bill, like the location, is definitely premium. Fifteen euros for an endlessly chic snack.
I suppose it is only fair—the napkins are cloth and the hunkish waiters can’t be cheap. I imagine restoration costs were exquisite.
Either as a tourist in Milan, after a stop downstairs at Prada Uomo or across the way at Prada Donna, or as a resident in search of a savored afternoon break, Marchesi is about as pleasantly stimulating a coffee bar as you’ll find in the city. Just don’t expect a humble cappuccino for €1.30.