There’s nary a corner of the world where you can escape McDonalds. Years ago, whilst exploring the medieval architecture of Bologna, Italy, I was stunned to turn a corner on one of the city’s ancient cobblestone streets, to come face to face with the Golden Arches, stretching six feet high across a giant white sign and bookended with arrows pointing in either direction.
Burger King, Subway, even KFC – all the big multinational food brands have infiltrated Italy. In September, after years of resistance, the country even got its first Starbucks, with the Seattle coffee giant opening a location in Milan’s Piazza Cordusio.
What the country doesn’t have is many chain restaurants of its own. Though we might associate the nation with slow meals that see diners enjoying wine and multiple courses over several hours, the reality is that most people don’t always have the luxury of spending hours savouring an elaborate dinner. Sometimes we need to grab a quick bite, and while you can get a burger from a familiar brand in any Italian city, picking up a quick pizza slice or other more traditional fare hasn’t worked the same way. Until now.
Their new pizza joints serve up traditional Neapolitan style pizza, but with a twist: unusual toppings, like salmon and avocado, or banana and Nutella. Novembre followed suit with a space that is at once futuristic and modern, yet borrows from history. In each store, customers are greeted by Queen Margherita, a six-metre high, glossy red statue that looms over the entrance.
This red queen, combined with black, white and grey tiles from Lea Ceramiche that form a pattern that evokes a landscape of cascading playing cards, creates a vibe that is more Alice in Wonderland than fast food. The tiles are meant to reference the card game that Briscola was named for, and are complemented with bold graphics on the wall that feature playing card characters.
Other features that are characteristic of Briscola’s new spaces include Kartell seating, which includes Philippe Starck’s Generic C chairs in matte black and the cube-shaped Eur stools which Novembre launched with the brand last year, in white. The restaurants also have pyramid ceiling lights from Flos and seamless curving walls formed from Hi-Macs surfacing, printed with geometric patterns that echo the floor.
A key objective of the project, the designer says, was to create an interior concept that is both recognizable and replicable on an international scale and the playing-card characters, emblazoned on canvases backlit with glowing red LEDs, are a memorable feature that we are sure to see repeated in future Briscolas, including the store currently in the works for London. Novembre is currently working on applying the new signature look to a handful of pre-existing stores in Milan and Firenze.