A place that recalls the atmosphere of the Milanese trattorias of the early Nineties, where to discover the dishes of the classical Italian cuisine
Da Giacomo in Milan
Da Giacomo’s founder, Giacomo Bulleri was born in Collodi, Tuscany, in 1925. In an interview with Cristian Taormina, General Manager of the group – the third generation of Giacomo’s family working in the restaurant – he explains that «Da Giacomo was born in 1958 as a trattoria in via Donizetti in Milan. A trattoria with Tuscan origins. The menu was mainly traditional Tuscan dishes, but also from Piedmont. Giacomo, in fact, started working in Turin before setting up his own restaurant in Milan».
Da Giacomo went from serving traditional Tuscan food, predominantly meat based dishes in the fifties and sixties. It, then, evolved, changing into a fish restaurant, when the activity moved to via Sottocorno in 1989. Cristian attributes this transformation to his parents-in-law response to changes in the market. Da Giacomo then began to expand, opening a Tabaccheria and a Pasticceria. Then, in 2008 it opened the Bistrot. While, in 2010 it launched the Caffè Letterario di Palazzo Reale and the Arengario in Piazza Duomo. In 2018 Da Giacomo went back to its Tuscan roots and opened in Pietrasanta.
Da Giacomo’s latest developments
The last addition has been the Gastronomia last year, during the lockdown, in via Previati, near Piazza Amendola. They had already found this location to open up a food store. So, with the pandemic in April they decided to start a take away and delivery service. Today it is a neighbourhood deli, with a selection of cured meats, cheeses and wines.
Da Giacomo has always been family run. But, in the last few months a partner has joined the enterprise. The aim is to expand, whilst still keeping both their aesthetic and essential criteria of hospitality. Thus preserving the soul of Da Giacomo. When asked about the uniqueness of Da Giacomo’s enterprise Cristian states that «it is a kind of sober elegance. Da Giacomo doesn’t shout, it focuses on hospitality. This is what Giacomo transmitted to us. Both to my parents-in–law and to us, the third generation. Giacomo was from Tuscany, he managed to build a clientele through the years».
Eight years ago Da Giacomo did not even have a press office, until a client suggested it. Da Giacomo’s evolution till that moment had been very gradual. «We never thought we wanted to get here. Our growth was mainly due to our clients’ support for our work. A work that we carry out with passion, with dedication, to make our customers feel at home. The guest is sacred».
Lampoon review: Da Giacomo’s philosophy
Cristian describes it as being «obsessive about the quality of our products. We want to keep, not hide the flavours. This was Giacomo’s philosophy. Buy a good quality product and just make sure you don’t ruin it with too many flights of fancy in the kitchen. This is what we communicate to our chefs, because our clients expect from Da Giacomo traditional, classic cuisine. We need to keep up with the times, without distorting the essence of Da Giacomo».
Regarding the activity’s current location, Cristian considers it as found by chance. Da Giacomo had to move from its previous location because the owner was doing something else with the premises. «The architect Renzo Mongiardino told Giacomo he had found a place that he thought was going to be the right place for Da Giacomo. Giacomo told me that when he saw the place in via Sottocorno. He was quite worried at first, because it was not a great neighbourhood at the time».
Mongiardino had a certain vision. All Da Giacomo premises have the motives of the arches that reminds us of the initial Mongiardino decoration. Then Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini, from Studio Peregalli, created the interior design of other subsequent locations. «So the original Da Giacomo was born almost by chance in an area where I would have never opened a restaurant. But Giacomo followed Mongiardino, and in the end his choice was rewarded».
Da Giacomo’s multiple locations
As for Da Giacomo’s multiple other locations, Taormina explains that there has been a certain continuity, as quite a few of them are near the original restaurant via Sottocorno. For example, when they opened the Rosticceria they realized that the area was lacking a good quality rotisserie and a take away. Looking at their competitors in the area, they realized that there was no take away which also gave the opportunity to eat in.
They differentiated their offer by saying: you can take home our lasagnas and our roasted chicken or you can eat it here. Nobody was offering comfort food at the time. It was a way of going back to their roots, to a sense of familiar, home cooking. A place that would put people at ease, trying to capture the children of their clients, with a different budget, but who wanted the same quality.
Then, still in via Sottocorno, they opened the Pasticceria, as Cristian’s wife attended the Pastry School run by Iginio Massari. So, together with her sister, they launched the Pasticceria. They also opened what they define as Da Giacomo’s headquarters. A workspace where they make home made pasta, bread and cakes, since the Pasticceria cakes are the ones that are served in all the Da Giacomo locations.
Regarding the location in Pietrasanta, Tuscany, it was a friend’s recommendation. It was the only location in the centre with a garden. As Cristian Taormina explains «we fell in love with it. We chose following our hearts but also our heads. Since many families from Milan, Parma, Bergamo and Brescia go on holiday in Versilia, they recognize our brand. The restaurant in Pietrasanta has worked since the year we opened it».
The interior of Da Giacomo in via Sottocorno
When asked to describe the interior of Da Giacomo’s establishment in via Sottocorno Cristian explains that «Friends helped us define Da Giacomo’s interior decoration. It was Renzo Mongiardino at first, and then Roberto Peregalli and Laura Sartori Rimini, who designed our interiors. They chose an idea of beauty that was not ostentatious».
The aspiration of having a contemporary, but timeless design represents the fil rouge of all of Da Giacomo’s locations. As the General Manager highlights, «they are contemporary because they are ageless». Da Giacomo is elegant and old fashioned, so is the Pasticceria. This decorative mood is not a format, as every location is different.
Da Giacomo’s culinary proposals
The menu at Da Giacomo changes following the products that are available in different seasons. Although Da Giacomo is predominantly a fish restaurant, in the autumn, they offer truffle and porcini mushroom in their menus. In the last few years, Emanuele Settel has been the Executive Chef, but each location has its own Head Chef. Taormina states: «We have a good team, with a coherent approach and a clear vision. They have understood what we want from them. But, we leave some freedom to the various head chefs so they can express their creativity and still work within the tradition of Da Giacomo. We have decided to propose some of our signature dishes in every location». For example, the tortello cacio e pepe or the red lobster tartare can be found in all the Da Giacomo restaurants.
At the beginning, Giacomo was renowned as a restaurant that served Tuscan food such as roasts, pappa al pomodoro, ribollita. Even though Da Giacomo transitioned to being a fish restaurant, they have since reintroduced these traditional Tuscan dishes in the Rosticceria, as they represent comfort food. «As far as the ingredients are concerned, as I am from Sicily, I know and I love fish. So I really enjoy the fact that we have established a long standing collaboration with fishermen, who sometimes even send us the photographs of their latest catch».
For Cristian, paying attention to small details is instrumental. Especially regarding things that sometimes are overlooked. For example, the recipes to make pasta as well as the types of extra virgin olive oil. Small Tuscan producers are the ones sourcing them.
Vegan and vegetarian options at Da Giacomo
Nowadays, there is huge emphasis on vegan, vegetarian options, as well as on providing locally sourced ingredients. Cristian Taormina affirms that Da Giacomo has always had vegetarian options, and that he has started working on a wine list that includes natural wines. In addition, Da Giacomo also takes into account requests from vegan clients and from all customers who have allergies and intolerances to various ingredients.
Concerning the use of local ingredients, he acknowledges the difficulty to find locally produced ingredients for the restaurants in Milan. But, he also affirms that it is much easier to source local ingredients for its restaurant in Pietrasanta, where the products chosen are from the Tuscan countryside and in season.
Regarding the type of clients that frequent Da Giacomo’s locations, the General Manager affirms that each location has a slightly different clientele ranging from businessmen, lawyers, many people on show biz, doctors, politicians, influencers. The Bistrot is more glamorous, whilst Da Giacomo is more old fashioned. The Arengario has a more international clientele, while the Rosticceria has a younger clientele.
The Covid-19 pandemic
As for the Covid-19 pandemic, Cristian maintains that at the beginning «we were very scared as we didn’t know what we were going to face. At first we thought about our health, then we started losing our sleep». Fortunately, Da Giacomo had already started delivering food with the Rosticceria and the Pasticceria. Therefore, the logistics were already established and the restaurant in via Sottocorno started delivering food.
«We are keeping this service even now because due to the curfew people do not want to rush home early from restaurants and prefer to eat at home. We have used this time to reflect, we have met with our employees and listened to suggestions». Da Giacomo hopes to start again in September and will focus even more on their clients. As Cristian states, there is a great need for this, especially at this time.
Giacomo al Lago
Da Giacomo’s future plans are ambitious. A new location will shortly open on Lake Como, at the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, on the beach of the structure. In a timeless atmosphere – the same that characterized the Italian rivieras in the fifties and sixties – in front of the spectacle of the Grigne, that are reflected on the water, just where the lake is divided into two branches, and like a postcard frame the floating pool.
Giacomo al Lago will offer its guests fresh fish and seafood, from the red shrimp of Mazara del Vallo to scampi, bream and snapper. This creates the perfect combination of fish dishes of the Italian tradition and the location of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo. Despite it being not the best climate to start a new project, Taormina affirms that «we don’t want to stay still. Da Giacomo has grown and we feel it can develop abroad as well».
Via Pasquale Sottocorno, 6, 20129 Milano
Da Giacomo. A place that recalls the atmosphere of the Milanese trattorias of the early 1900s, where to discover the dishes of classical Italian cuisine.