The atmosphere is that of the traditional Italian delicatessen stores where, among shelves full of specialties of all kinds, sacks of flour and vintage cupboards, waiters dressed in white apron delight guests with the most authentic Venetian culinary tradition.
The master of the house is Luigi Zolin, an eclectic artist who has always succeeded in transforming his dreams into successful professions: a bespoke tailor (he worked for the most celebrated haute couture Maisons, from Givenchy to Valentino), event designer (in 2002 he opened his flower & home decor shop) and today also a refined gourmand, a love that he shares with his sister Giuseppina, a passionate cook, and culminating in 2010 with the opening of their first restaurant, Luigi Zolin Cibo.
To host his “bottega”, Luigi chose an old hardware store, deciding to keep the original shop’s sign, floor, and wooden fixtures in order to accentuate the retro charm of the place. The main hall is dominated by enormous wood tables, which Luigi “dresses” with original compositions inspired by seasonal fruit and vegetables, as well as a myriad of gourmet products beautifully displayed on the shelves.
All the raw materials used in the kitchen are, in fact, sold in the store and have been strictly selected among the best Italian producers of organic and artisanal delicatessens. The examples are infinite: from the Acquarello rice from Vercelli to the flours of the Mulino Marino from Cuneo (used for the hand-made bread and pasta served at the restaurant), from the small Ustica lentils to the violet artichokes from Sant’Erasmo Island in Venice.
The genuineness of the raw materials reflects the menu that includes the most famous Venetian traditional dishes, from homemade dumplings to meat pies, with some interesting “extras” such as the whole basmati rice with chicken curry inspired by the international staff of the restaurant.
Everything, from mise en place to the service, is orchestrated according to a precise ritual by Luigi: the tableware recalls the typical “grandmother” sets in white majolica, whilst coffee, a blend of Arabica varieties cultivated in high-altitude in Guatemala, is served with the traditional moka in transparent glasses (the “bicérin”, as it was used before porcelain became popular in Europe). The drink list is essential but all wine labels are also available by the glass and it includes also a fine selection of artisanal beers.
A few meters from Luigi Zonin’s restaurant, in Piazza V. Emanuele 13, you can also visit Luigi Zolin Casa, the flower & home decor shop, and the tailoring atelier, open by appointment only, where Luigi conserves his precious archive of sketches and paper patterns created for the famous fashion houses he used to work for.
In his long and multifaceted career, Luigi has worked as a tailor for the biggest fashion houses: Christian Dior, Givenchy, Nina Ricci, Valentino. Precisely in Rome, for Valentino, Luigi has dressed some of the most beautiful women in the world and has “restored” the designer’s most iconic clothes for his 45th-anniversary exhibition of the Maison held in 2007 at the Ara Pacis museum. In fact, in his small tailoring atelier, Luigi holds a precious treasure made up of original designs and models that he made over the years for the famous designers with whom he collaborated.