MILAN — Choosing unique sites, tailoring experiences and building a community in hospitality are key elements for success, according to Jennie and Dangene Enterprise, cofounders and co-CEOs of Core, and Stefano Bizzarri, co-owner and manager of the Dalla Gioconda restaurant.
In a panel moderated by WWD editorial director James Fallon, Jennie Enterprise said the Core members-only venture launched in 2005 is building three new sites — in New York on Fifth Avenue, in Milan and in San Francisco.
Asked for the reasons for choosing these locations, she explained that the first requirement needs to be “a city that is extremely international, international in its perspective, because Core needs to curate a community of diverse, relentlessly curious people, and that requires a certain city to be vibrant and internationally relevant.”
Milan for Core “was a dream city with people from all over the world who were descending upon it. Also, for our spaces, we need to be in dialogue with the city, and so representing the soul and the character of the city is really crucial for Core, for relentlessly curious people that are on a journey of discovery. That’s a true gift when you encounter Milano.”
The Enterprise entrepreneurs are restoring a stately palazzo that includes a former convent in central Milan, on Corso Matteotti, near the San Carlo church, which will cover 40,000 square feet.
The Michelin-starred restaurant Dalla Gioconda was founded by Bizzarri with his wife and former Etro designer Allegra Tirotti Romanoff, and chef Davide di Fabio, and “is a story of love because my father [Marco, former Gucci president and chief executive officer] used to go eat in Gabicce Monte in the place where we have the restaurant when he was a little kid with his dad bringing him after working all year long in the factory. He then went with my mother [when she was pregnant with me] so we love Gabicce Monte.”
Di Fabio brings his 16 years of experience at Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana to Dalla Gioconda, which is perched on a hill in the town of Gabicce Monte, offering a stunning view of the beaches of Gabicce Mare below. The venue used to be a disco-pizzeria in the ’50s managed by the namesake Mrs. Gioconda and at the time the area was famous for its music locales and artists would come to perform there.
Bizzarri recalled that after studying economics, he traveled the world surfing, his “first passion,” he said. “So the first job you can find when you want to surf during daytime is serving at tables in restaurants in the evening. This is how I fell in love with the restaurant [business].” In his mind, there was no other location for his own restaurant than his “beloved place,” Gabicce Monte.
Dalla Gioconda and Core have succeeded in building in different ways a returning community, whether in a city center or in a tourist destination.
Asked how they achieved this, Jennie Enterprise said “a deep understanding of the community” is key and “for us it really is about relentless curiosity. So what does that mean? It means that our members are moving through the world as every day is a journey of discovery. So that means that you design spaces in a certain way. It informs every decision. Our spaces are architecturally interesting, infused with culture. We are also ideas-led, so we celebrate the art of ideas. Of course having beautiful amenities is important, but what defines us is the quality of those ideas. Our cultural programming and curating culture is critical for Core. That is what draws a community together when the gravitational pull is about curation and culture for us.”
Of course food needs to be of the best quality, said Bizzarri, but he credited his wife, who is passionate about art, for the interior design and for “trying to bring always a new touch” to the restaurant. Referring to the importance of experiential moments, he noted that there is a small cinema at Dalla Gioconda showing iconic movies such as “La Dolce Vita” by [Federico] Fellini or “Amici Miei.” “And you always see a new detail, something new, something that brings you to want to come over and see what we have done that is new or what people haven’t noticed yet.”
He believes it is important to add elements of surprise to the locale, be it the cinema or the aromatic herbs in the garden and the postcards on the tables, or turning a diner’s wine cork into a keychain as a memento. “We want people to come in the restaurant and say, ‘Wow.’ People are not used to sending postcards anymore, so we put a postcard that already has a stamp on it so they can send it to people they love. It’s something that they’re not used to anymore, because we always get just fines in the mail, but not postcards,” he said to a round of chuckles.
When asked if Core would consider additional sites in Italy — while Bizzarri, smiling, suggested Gabicce Monte — Jennie Enterprise said “absolutely, we think Italy is genetically gifted,” and that Core reflects the appreciation for the country’s intersection of culture and food. “This is why we’re all here today. We’re telling a story. And when you think about transformation, it happens at the intersection of diversity, right? So for us, it’s diversity of industry, geography and to be able to navigate through the way people move through the world and for our spaces to provide conditions for transformation. Italy is a perfect country for us to do that in.”
As for Bizzarri, he believes setting up “another Dalla Gioconda is not possible of course, but I’m sure that with my wife Allegra’s touch, and our chef and his way of creating new dishes, we can consider opening up new restaurants. We are building just now an albergo diffuso, like a small hotel with some rooms in the small town, and the restaurant is the heart of this hotel. So this is our main business that we’re doing now, but it’s just because we love the place, we want to make it better and people need to be very, very happy when they come there.”