Pianoterra, Exploring The <br>City-Architecture Relationship

Pianoterra, Exploring The
City-Architecture Relationship

Pianoterra was born out of a desire “to establish a more intimate link between architecture and the city”. It was an idea that led Benoit Jallon and Umberto Napolitano, founders of the LAN agency, to create a new experience. That of the restaurant and gallery combined. Located on the ground floor of the building that houses their studio, it “decompartmentalises living spaces and disciplines” and also acts as a showcase for their architectural work. It is a place that welcomes the public into a setting shaped by LAN’s love of micro-details and relationships of scale, and is marked by an inspiring selection of cultural items on display. Books, photographs and drawings complete the setting around recipes custom-made by the chef, Rosa Vanina Pavone. To take the experience of sharing even further! But also to experience the permeability between the neighbourhood – the 11th arrondissement of Paris – the street, and their studio. The Sicilian chef, who has lived in France for twelve years, offers a single set menu each lunchtime. For her, “sharing a meal does not only mean sitting at the same table, but eating the same food”. It is made up of dishes composed according to the ingredients found during her morning trip to the local shops. She tries “to reproduce the intelligence that is the basis of Italian rural cooking: the art of doing the best with what is at hand and in season” but also to add a highly personal touch. She aims to share the Sicilian landscape of her childhood memories as well as the real world in which Pianoterra finds itself. In Paris.

Pianoterra, 49 Rue Popincourt – 75011 Paris. Opening hours: Monday to Friday from 12:30 to 14:00 and Wednesday to Friday from 19:30 to 22:00 (last service). Reservation by phone at +33 (0)171 609627 or by e-mail at rosa@pianoterra.fr

Table avec nappe blanche et chaise en bois dans le restaurant Pianoterra à Paris
Table avec nappe blanche et cadres dans le restaurant Pianoterra à Paris
Verrière blanche avec table bleue et chaise en bois dans le restaurant Pianoterra
Salle de restauration avec pilonne et chaises en bois dans le restaurant Pianoterra

Benoît, Umberto, Rosa: could you introduce yourselves, please?

Rosa

I am the chef at Pianoterra, that’s my challenge. And the loving mother of two boys, Marcel and Jacques, who are my rock.

Umberto & Benoît

We are architects, founders of LAN (Local Architecture Network) and partners in the restaurant, Pianoterra.

Tell us about your background.

Rosa

I trained as a cellist and studied literature and film extensively. I then worked for 10 years for the cultural programme department at the Italian television station Rai Tre, spending my time between Milan and Turin. My career change to cooking coincided with my move to Paris twelve years ago. The change of country gave me the opportunity to really question myself. I freed myself from the expectations that others had of me, from my “network”, and I accepted the pleasure of cooking for others and made it my profession. Basically, at the moment of uprooting myself, I encountered my roots, and my professional identity. And I found myself, a cook and a Sicilian.

Umberto

I studied architecture at the University of Naples Federico II in Italy for two years. Then I moved and continued my studies at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Paris – La Villette where Benoît and I met. In 2002, we decided to found our agency, LAN, which combines architectural practice and theory. I’m also a lecturer. I have taught at Columbia University GSAPP in New York (USA) and at the AA (Architecture Association) School of Architecture in London (UK). Currently, I am teaching at the TU Wien (AU).

Benoît

I studied architecture at the École de Paris – La Villette, where I met Umberto, and we studied for our degree together. I then travelled abroad extensively before founding LAN, our architectural firm, in 2002.

How did you meet each other?

Rosa

I met Umberto in 2013 when I was cooking for clients in their homes. He quickly became one of my best clients.

Murs en miroir dans le restaurant Pianoterra à Paris
Tables bleues et chaises en bois avec verrière blanche dans le restaurant Pianoterra
Escalier bleu dans le restaurant Pianoterra à Pari
Tables bleues avec chaises en bois dans le restaurant Pianoterra

Pianoterra is more than just a project on the side; it reflects our desire to decompartmentalise living spaces and disciplines.

Plat italien dans le restaurant Pianoterra
Salle avec chaises en bois et escalier bleu dans le restaurant Pianoterra à Paris

Pianoterra is the result of your collaboration. How did you get the idea of opening a restaurant?

Rosa

Meeting Umberto led to this idea in 2019, which was to make meals for the whole LAN team, twice a week for a year, to create a meeting around a meal. It was on the occasion of the opening of their new premises on Rue Popincourt. This place had always charmed me. There is a beautiful kitchen that opens directly onto a patio and a lush, herb-filled terrace. That’s when the idea of opening a restaurant took root. When the premises on the ground floor became available, Pianoterra was born.

Benoît

We wanted to establish a more intimate link between architecture and the city. This idea inspired the agency to imagine Pianoterra as a new experience. Located on the ground floor, the restaurant-cum-gallery is a proper architectural showcase that welcomes the public with books, photographs and drawings. Pianoterra is more than just a project on the side; it reflects our desire to decompartmentalise living spaces and disciplines.

What does the word ‘Pianoterra’ mean in your philosophy?

Rosa

Umberto and Benoît’s main idea was to bring architecture to the street and to foster permeability between the neighbourhood, the street and their studio on the 5th floor of the building. Pianoterra means ground floor in Italian, which means “at ground level” or rather “at street level” in a city.

Benoît, Umberto: how would you describe the signature of LAN, your architectural firm?

Umberto

The signature of the agency is probably in its approach: LAN (Local Architecture Network) was created in 2002, with the idea of exploring architecture as a material at the intersection of several disciplines. This attitude, which has now become a methodology, allows the agency to explore new territories in search of a vision involving social, urban, ecological and functional issues.

In addition to being a place to eat, Pianoterra is also a gallery where you can see an inspiring cultural selection. Tell us about it.

Umberto

Pianoterra reflects the soul of the agency. We focused on micro-details and glimpses across the space through relationships of scale. The day/night lighting, the seating and acoustic comfort, the embroidered tablecloths, the inspiring cultural offering: books, photographs and architectural drawings by Alavaro Siza, Philippe Rahm, Barozzi Veiga, Tham & Videgård or Cyrille Weiner… Wood and indigo concrete, tinted in the mass, echo the two main materials already present in the fifth-floor agency offfices. The walls are adorned with stucco from the white stone of Paris, while two tables and a counter in zebrato marble are reflected in a silver patina mirror with a chalked-up list of natural wines.

La cheffe Rosa Vanina Pavone dans le restaurant Pianoterra à Paris
La cheffe Rosa Vanina Pavone dans la cuisine du Pianoterra à Paris
La cuisine du restaurant Pianoterra à Paris
Pianoterra, Exploring The <br>City-Architecture Relationship
Étagères en bois avec livres dans la restaurant Pianoterra
Meuble de rangement blanc dans le restaurant Pianoterra à Paris
Verrière blanche et table avec nappes blanches dans le restaurant Pianoterra à Paris

Rosa, what kind of cuisine do you bring to the table at Pianoterra?

Rosa

It is my ambition to create recipes that reflect, on the one hand, the landscape of my childhood memories, Sicilian therefore, and, on the other, the reality in which the restaurant is located: the 11th arrondissement, here in the city of Paris, in the Ile-de-France. I have to say I don’t do folklore. I’m not interested in that. What interests me is trying to reproduce the intelligence that is the basis of Italian rural cooking: the art of doing the best with what is at hand and in season. From my experience of cooking at home, I’ve retained the desire to do something custom-made. My ambition is to compose my menu each day according to what I find in my morning walk to the local shops, leaving me with the surprise and pleasure of finding those glorious products that will inspire me to cook. It’s a lot of work, and it’s risky, but that’s where the fun and interest of the exercise lies for me.

Why did you choose a single menu that changes every day?

Rosa

The single menu? For the experience of sharing. Sharing a meal doesn’t just mean sitting at the same table, but eating the same food. The lunch menu, for example, is vegetarian so that everyone can enjoy it. Of course, I sometimes leave myself the alternative of composing dishes with meat (very rarely) and fish (my passion) offered alongside the menu. In the evening, it’s different. The menu is à la carte, and I reproduce the atmosphere of the dinners I used to make at home with more refined ingredients and products.

Which producers have you surrounded yourself with to provide you with local, responsibly-sourced
products every day?

Rosa

I work a lot with the small shopkeepers in the area between Rue Popincourt and Rue Basfroi (within a 300 m radius). They all have a responsible approach to sourcing, and I have every confidence in them. I never place a large order in advance; their display dictates the composition of the day’s menu.

What is your flagship product, the one that is fundamental to your work and/or that you never tire of working with?

Rosa

The basis of my cooking is extra virgin olive oil, which I buy directly from an organic producer located 800 m up on Mount Etna. It gives consistency and taste to all my dishes: from raw red tuna to chocolate mousse. The product I never tire of working with? Aubergine, especially the Sicilian violet. I absolutely love them. Artichokes console me for not having them in winter (Laughs).

Where will we meet again in the near future?

Rosa

At Pianoterra.

Umberto & Benoît

We’ve got a lot of dates for you this year! In mid-October, we will be in Strasbourg to see Romeo Castellucci perform at the Théâtre du Maillon, which we finished this year. Then we will celebrate the Silver Square Award at the agency and, at the beginning of the year, the 20th anniversary of our agency. We will also be in Basel, where we are preparing an exhibition at the Museum of Architecture. And, of course, we’ll be having lunch every day at Pianoterra.

Couverts dans le restaurant Pianoterra à Paris
Carnet de commande dans le restaurant Pianoterra à Paris
Dessert dans le restaurant Pianoterra à Paris
Cadres décoratifs dans le restaurant Pianoterra à Paris
Lavabo fleuri dans le restaurant Pianoterra à Paris
Salle de bain noire avec lavabo fleuri dans le restaurant Pianoterra à Paris

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