The new design of Piccolo Lago brought about a practical and formal reorganization of the kitchen. In the brief period of sixty days, the restaurant was to be given a new and easily-recognizable identity with the chef’s culinary philosophy in the foreground.
This was how the transformation was born. It was an ideal expansion of the kitchen as a cultural starting point which took on a meta-design dimension. The first impact reflects maximum practicality for producing the various courses and emotional and symbolic appeal at the same time. It tells the history of the restaurant, evoking the original atmosphere and the connection with the chef’s family and territory. The project hinged on these two main themes, which work closely together to enhance the new content.Marco Sacco’s quest for innovation required a custom-designed space equipped with all the latest equipment structured to allow continual experimentation. The spatial organization needed to facilitate the research on individual dishes and the chef’s creativity. The objective was to create a pleasing environment both to visit and to work in that highlighted the personnel’s comfort and ease of movement, thereby guaranteeing optimal working conditions reflected in each new recipe.These technical and technological requirements, but most especially the practicality, that facilitate the rational organization of teamwork, were the determining factors of a simple layout characterized by extreme clarity of pathways and flow of work.The kitchen therefore is enlarged and acquires a dual purpose, structured around work areas that are divided by type of product: the “technical kitchen” on the lower level, the “noble kitchen” on the upper level. All the phases of work are thus divided by a process of specific tasks and functions—storage, cleaning, cooking, service. All the phases of preparation and preservation of products take place on the lower level, while the upper level is dedicated to finish cooking and plating, with a further division based on courses (rice/pasta/soups, entrees, antipasti, desserts). This is where some of the more advanced pieces of equipment facilitate the food handling, allowing the dishes to be finished with ease and efficiency. Refrigerators under the cooktop put preserved products within reach during finishing, just as the warming equipment, located in proximity of the pass, guarantees the fragrance of the final garnishes.The kitchen reflects itself and it’s internal rules. It has been redesigned to incorporate a new method of cooking, where the elaboration of single products rather than finished dishes assumes a central role. Even so, the kitchen is not totally introverted. Just the opposite: it invites communication with the chef thanks to a completely transparent glass wall that separates it from the front of the house without creating a visual barrier. The wall actually frames the activity behind the curtain, placing the movement of the cooks and the waiters in center stage. The kitchen opens onto the dining area, showing its technical and functional capacity as though it wants people to witness the creation of the individual dishes that will be served, while the guests anticipate them and grasp the process of their production.The theatrical quality of the production is, however, filtered. It is visible, but never ostentatious. The kitchen offers itself only to those who wish to observe, without disturbing the privacy of each table.Thanks to this marked transparency, the wall that separates the kitchen and the front of the house assumes a communicative function, allowing a story to be told like a window that opens onto the chef’s culinary philisophy. But there are other elements that compete to describe the complexity and abundance of his research: a refrigerated showcase displaying the products he serves, a kind of “abacus of flavors” of the territory, a particularly meaningful element because Piccolo Lago’s kitchen has always been characterized by the use of local ingredients. Next to the transparent refrigerator is an intimate tasting room designed for socializing. Not by chance, it’s the heart of the restaurant. Marco Sacco’s haute cuisine re-discovers and elaborates the flavors of the territory, becoming a cultural experience, often at a sophisticated level, as well as an occasion of exchange, joy and comparison. The chef can receive a few people to eat at the table in the “tasting room,” talking with them as they follow a path of gastronomic magic.The “fire kitchen” is a further metaphor of Piccolo Lago’s culinary approach, located along the line that separates the front of the house from the actual kitchen. This is where the “spectacularization” of the ancient rituals of smoking and open-flame cooking are staged, representing the soul and tradition of Piccolo Lago restaurant, which has always taken an interest in experimenting with (and renovating) traditional cooking techniques.Here, in the conflict between traditional workmanship and experimentation, is where the most modern technological processes are used to their best advantage in perfect synthesis: the two techniques are mutually enhancing. The use of coals, spits or smokers next to an ultra-modern matrix shouldn’t be a surprise: the Thermomix, which blends or whips at high temperatures; the Pacojet, which pulverizes or whips frozen products, reducing waste and simplifying the preservation of ingredients; the Roner, for vacuum-sealed cooking at low temperatures; syphons that facilitate handling mousses and working with foods with particular consistencies.
One last allegorical reminder of the haute cuisine proposed here is the simple outline, etched into the glass, of antique furniture that once occupied space in the restaurant. They evoke an atmosphere that lives on, suggesting long-gone kitchens that have an unbreakable symbolic and emotional connection. These outlines bring on an imaginary trip through personal and collective memories to long-ago times and places, representing the historical evolution of the restaurant. They are the matrix and the soul that are still the basis of all the innovative research to date and that is yet to come.
Marco Sacco’s culinary philosophy, which goes from traditional to innovative, ancient to modern, past to future, local to global, reveals itself little by little, like a story that finds a complete functional, sysmbolic and spatial synthesis in this restaurant.