How This Artisanal Chef Brings the Element of "Surprise" to His Milanese Restaurant
By Alexis Christoforous
Opposite an archaeological site dating from ancient Roman times, La Brisa has been part of the fabric of the Milan restaurant scene for nearly two decades.
Owner and chef Antonio Facciolo creates regional dishes with a modern flair for his loyal clientele. Just blocks from the Italian Stock Exchange (La Borsa Italia), La Brisa is a popular spot for business power lunches, but it also caters to couples and families.
Facciolo tells The Voice of Business that his passion is to give his clientele a “simple and elegant experience” that is consistent, but with an element of surprise. Take his signature Iberian crispy pork, a sweet and savory dish that harkens to Spain and the Austrian Alps but with an Italian twist.
The menu changes once a month and includes seasonally inspired recipes with fish, meat and vegetarian dishes so “there are always new flavors to be discovered,” he said.
At a time when many retail stores and restaurants were forced to close because of the global health crisis, La Brisa has managed to thrive and Facciolo said business has nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels.
“My passion in the restaurant business is trying to be as constant as possible, and to try to last overtime,” he said.
Facciolo credits his creativity in the kitchen to his family of craftsmen and women. His father, Enzo Facciolo, was an accomplished cartoonist best known for his work on the popular Italian comic strip Diabolik. His renderings are featured on the walls of La Brisa.
“My grandmother was an artisanal shoemaker, and my mother and my sister do the same with jewelry,” he said.
Facciolo tries to bring that same sensibility to his cooking, working with small regional producers when choosing food and wine for the menu.
“This is not easy, especially because it normally costs a lot in terms of time and in terms of money, but it’s necessary that the customers don't feel disappointed by what you are trying to give them.”
Located in the heart of Milan’s historic district, an unassuming exterior gives way to a welcoming and elegant restaurant with an outdoor garden which Facciolo describes as an “oasis” where diners eat under the shade of lime trees away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Outdoor diners may also get an unexpected visit from a loyal “customer” - Speedy the turtle who has a penchant for strawberries. “He started living here in 1985, and in spring time, he comes out and starts walking around, but he’s a little bit aggressive sometimes,” Facciolo said. So, when he finds women diners with open toe shoes and toenails painted red, Speedy gives it a little nibble.
“You realize it, because you see a woman jumping around on a chair,” Facciolo explained. “It's nothing serious, doesn't hurt, and it's a guest that all the customers coming here know very, very well.”