Italian excellence in wine and food is the focus of Norbert Kier’s showroom in Bolzano designed by Roland Baldi
In the heart of Bolzano, an eighteenth-century palace serves as the headquarters for Italia&Amore, a “promotional showcase” and five-story temple to the excellence of the food and wine that Italy offers from the North to the South, from the East to the West. «This is the first home for a brand – Italia&Amore – which I hope will demonstrate that if you are careful in selecting quality raw materials and fine Italian products, you can still eat good and healthy food, with an eye to ethics and to the food culture», says Norbert Kier, the entrepreneur and owner of Italia&Amore, a highly determined entrepreneur with long-term vision who has already invested three and a half million euro in this new adventure in Bolzano, for a showcase conceived to promote the brand’s activities.
Sitting at one of his tables on a warm September evening, he told Pantografo his story. After training in hotel management in high school, he began his career at an early age exporting Italian wine abroad. «Since the beginning of my career (in the Nineties), and still today, the idea of Italian food and wine (Made in Italy) abroad was rather distorted – explains Kier. One night, at the home of Swiss friends who were proposing an Italian dinner, I launched a challenge and promised to cook them an authentic Italian meal. The next day I realized that none of the raw materials and products available on the market in Zurich were acceptable to me in terms of quality. And many products were not available at all».
Hence the idea of travelling across every region in Italy in search of the finest producers, even the smallest and most remote, and excellence in food and wine. After selecting over 80 products, Kier began to distribute them in the supermarkets of the SPAR group, in Switzerland. The initiative bore fruit, and led the entrepreneur from Alto Adige to expand to the restaurant world, capturing the attention of countries such as Austria and Germany. Today the adventure continues, and Kier is already thinking about where to open the next “showcases” for Italia&Amore by 2020, in Frankfurt and Zurich.
«For the project to work, explains Kier, it is essential to understand where the market is going beforehand. Consumers are paying increasing attention to quality, for example, to food that satisfies the senses but is also as natural as possible. Then there are the markets of the future to consider, such as those in the emerging Asian countries where the food culture is profoundly different from our own».
Intercepting market aspirations and trends is my job
The brand, and hence the “showcase” for Italia&Amore, seeks to be coherent by tying its image to the quality of its spaces as well. It is no coincidence that Kier launched a design competition won by Roland Baldi, an architect with consolidated experience, based in Bolzano. «If Italia&Amore is to express the excellence of Italian food and wine, says Baldi, then its “home” must echo this concept in its architecture. In the design of the furniture and settings, developed in collaboration with the Gruppe Gut communication firm and Heike Linster, we sought to mix contemporary furniture, artisanal working processes and vernacular references».
All the materials he selects are natural and made in Italy, like the furniture that evokes the history of Italian cuisine between memory of the past and the contemporary.
The venue also features large tables that evoke the conviviality and sharing that are typical of our dining culture, and “cementine”, artisanal ceramic tiles typical of the kitchens of the past, a different colour for each floor; shelving stocked with cookbooks and preserves; kitchen cabinets clad in enameled sheet metal; lamps in the shape of demijohns, a clear reference to popular Italian domestic iconography; smaller custom-designed tables, half of them contemporary and half of them in a style reminiscent of the collective imagery of traditional furniture.
From the basement floor to the terrace at the top of the building the spaces feature a wine bar, a market to shop in, a bar with a pizzeria, a floor dedicated to pasta dishes, then a floor for meats, and finally spaces dedicated to fresh seafood from the Ligurian Sea. Floor after floor, the kitchens are all open-view. The key element in this “ascent through taste and memory” is the open metal staircase that connects all the levels, with a bookstore on one side that features floor to ceiling bookcases stocked with cookbooks and some of the 80 products “discovered” by Kier during his travels, a sort of vertical narration of the Italian food and wine culture.
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translation by Olga Barmine