Dalla Gioconda, From Disco to Restaurant With a View – WWD

GABICCE MONTE, Italy — The Dalla Gioconda restaurant received a Michelin star in November, but it would be simplistic to talk only about its delicious food.

Perched on a hill in the town of Gabicce Monte, the restaurant’s view over the beaches of Gabicce Mare below is breathtaking, the interior design is ideal and the atmosphere is easy and relaxed. After all, it is a family business and co-owners Stefano Bizzarri busies himself at the tables; his wife Allegra Tirotti Romanoff, a former Etro designer, conceived the interiors, and chef Davide di Fabio brings to the kitchen his 16 years of experience at Massimo Bottura’s Osteria Francescana. The porcelains, from the Ginori 1735 collections, are beautiful.

Eagle-eyed industry insiders may catch the links to Gucci, which are not a coincidence. Stefano is the son of outgoing Gucci president and chief executive officer Marco Bizzarri, a longtime friend of Bottura’s, who has established the Gucci Osterias around the world for the Italian luxury brand. And Gucci parent Kering owns Ginori. Dalla Gioconda, however, is not part of the Gucci portfolio and is clearly a very personal business that the three partners have been carefully nurturing.

“I used to come here on vacation as a kid from my home in Rubiera, and I love this town,” says Stefano Bizzarri simply. “Dalla Gioconda 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 famous artists would come to perform here.” 

There is still a jukebox standing pride of place in the restaurant and the concept of music runs throughout. Cue the intriguing menus printed on vinyl LPs.

The restaurant is accessed through a tunnel that has been transformed into an art and multimedia gallery. Dalla Gioconda extends over different levels and the views of the sea below and of the natural protected park of Mount San Bartolo are picture-perfect. In fact, Bizzarri leaves vintage-looking postcards of said landscape on each table and invites guests to send them. No need to worry about finding a mailbox, as he has placed one at the entrance – and even provides stamps. A touch that is so retro it feels new and modern.

The view from the terrace at Dalla Gioconda.

Andrea Biancofiore

Near the garden, punctuated by a series of chaise longues inviting lazy post-lunch snoozes, is a library filled with art books and — surprisingly — a small movie theater projecting Federico Fellini films and black and white cult movies. After all, Fellini was born in Rimini, less than 20 miles from Gabicce Monte.  Gabicce Mare below is a tourist attraction, as is all the riviera on the Adriatic coast. The town is in the northernmost spot of the Marche region, on the border of Emilia Romagna.

The menu reflects the traditions of the area, although di Fabio has personalized the dishes. But there is no trace of nostalgia either in the food or in the locale, where young waiters wearing an informal uniform and Gucci sneakers approach guests without a trace of stiffness.

“We like to create a relationship with our patrons, making them happy is our goal,” observes Bizzarri with a smile.

Lodging is also another way to strengthen the bond, as he has just unveiled another project — two rooms and a suite in a building two minutes away from the restaurant.

The vegetable garden at Dalla Gioconda.

Andrea Biancofiore

This easy and laid-back approach is embodied by Bizzarri himself, who studied economics at Milan’s prestigious Bocconi University, developed an interest in botany, and traveled the world, from Brazil to Argentina and Australia, surfing during the day and working as a waiter in the evenings, which led him to learn about the restaurant sector. A man-bun he sports is perhaps a token of his time as a surfer.

Three years ago, Bizzarri decided to take on Dalla Gioconda and to renovate it, reopening it in 2021.  

Accordingly several elements in the decor, such as the newly upholstered vintage furniture — even a table from Thailand from one of his trips — convey a homey feeling. His wife Tirotti Romanoff turned to key elements typical of the area, such as pink stones from the nearby Furlo gorge, grit floors, plenty of brass, wood and terracotta to add a sense of longevity to the location. There is also a gold plated table reserved for a special treat — an entirely personalized tasting menu.

A cocktail bar is on the panoramic terrace, the Limonaia.

Among the mouth-watering dishes, the Zuppiera (soup bowl in English) is a traditional recipe that blends seven different pasta shapes with seven kinds of fish and their broth. It is a signature dish of the restaurant.

La Zuppiera at Dalla Gioconda.

Andrea Biancofiore

Guests are generally surprised to find out that the paccheri pasta with what appears to be tomato sauce is actually made with plums — unexpected, but delicious. Other specialties include cuttlefish on a dip of peas with coconut milk, green curry and basil, or prawns with tomatoes and elderberry.

“We have our own vegetable garden for local ingredients and the dishes vary depending on the availability of the fish,” Bizzarri notes.

Respecting the territory is a must for Bizzarri and his partners, as he proudly says that Dalla Gioconda is the first restaurant in Italy that is plastic-free and that the building has obtained the Leed Gold certification.

“We have embraced the philosophy of Masanobu Fukuoka — admiring the perfection of nature, he believed in natural farming,” Bizzarri says of the minimal human interference in the agricultural process.

Stefano Bizzarri, Allegra Tirotti Romanoff and Davide di Fabio.

Andrea Biancofiore

Wine is also clearly a passion of Bizzarri’s as the cellar is surprising, below ground, extending through secret passages that lead to the foundations of a nearby castle. It stocks 1,300 different wine labels and 10,000 bottles, ranging from Champagne to verdicchio, sauterne, riesling and mosel, bordeaux and bolgheri.

The restaurant sits 40 guests and is the only one in the area open in winter.

Catering is also on the list of achievements, as Dalla Gioconda has worked on events with the likes of BMW during Design Week, Ferrari and Lamborghini.

But as he works to build Dalla Gioconda, Bizzarri’s view toward the restaurant stretches as far into the future as the vista from its windows. His family background may be in fashion, but he stresses he doesn’t aim for the location to become the latest — and momentary — “in” spot.

“I don’t want Dalla Gioconda to be tied to trends,” he says.

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