ZAÏA Milan, Where Italy Meets Tel Aviv

When it comes to the food concept, it’s all about sharing. From the kitchen, led by Chef Gigi Gagliardi and Dario Guffanti, comes a variety of sustainable and seasonable dishes and delicacies to be shared among family and friends.

In a quest to make the ZAÏA experience unique, the team looked at other cultures and flavours to complement their vast expertise in Italian products. The inspiration came in the form of “a fusion between two continents with an ancient culinary history”, according to Chef Gigi. “We did a lot of study on the peculiarities and flavours from the Middle East”, says the chef, “and combined it with our experience.”

One of the chef’s favourite dishes from the menu, Tubetto pasta, is the perfect example of this fusion between southern Italian tradition and Middle Eastern flavours. “The type of pasta is the same that your grandmother prepared for you in Italy when you were young”, describes chef Gigi. It is combined with “an extremely Middle Eastern flavour called the Dukkah” and filled “with a classic veal cheek and parmesan mousse”.

To Chef Gigi and Dario, ZAÏA is all about “sharing, friendship and comfort”. A “happy and unforgettable dining experience” with a unique atmosphere in the heart of Milan. 

“Creating a neutral, calm space where people could feel at home” was the challenge set by Benjamin Habbel, Co-founder of Aethos which Ala Zeigrat from Barcelona based interior designer Astet Studio accepted. A contrast to the exciting atmosphere of the hotel. The idea was to feel like “entering a different space”.

The choice of materials was clear from the beginning: earthy tones and neutral hues that would immediately transport visitors to a haven of tranquillity, complemented by the occasional splash of colour. As for the decor, art was mandatory and the more the better. 

The Middle Eastern and Mediterranean concepts of food sharing set the tone for the choice of the artworks. “We went for pieces that came from or were inspired by the Mediterranean”, Ala says. Although overall based on blue and white tones, “every art piece was different; there were no similar ones, just like in a personal collection.”

The design challenge also included creating a private area in the restaurant with exclusive access to Aethos Club members. This was achieved by using a heavy, theatre stage-like curtain that allowed the space to be more versatile: the curtain could be closed for more privacy or opened to expand the restaurant area. 

Behind the velvet curtain, members can enjoy a more loungy setup decorated with leather and velvet sofas, armchairs, and a privileged view. “It is an interesting area to be in because you can also watch the chefs preparing the food”, Ala comments.


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