Caffè Gilli e Caffè Concerto Paszkowski
Between the stage
and the living room
Marco and Sonia Valenza run the two most famous bars in Florence: the Caffè Concerto Paskowski and the Caffè Gilli overlooking the elegant Piazza della Repubblica. Their parents’ story was one of Italian entrepreneurialism, made of dreams achieved through determination and commitment.
Sacrifice, love and dedication. From the management of a small bar in Florence to the conquest of the city's stage, the exclusive Caffè Concerto Paszkowski and then the elegant Gilli Caffè, one of the oldest locales in Italy. "My family’s entrepreneurial story is beautiful, one of those from the seventies,” Marco Valenza gently recalls while reconstructing his parent’s journey. "My father was Sicilian. He moved to Tuscany when he was young, leaving his career as a policeman. Here he met my mother, who came from a small town in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. They decided to open a small bar in Florence together.” The business was going well, their sacrifice and hard work paid off and the two decided to expand by buying a larger place. Then they had the chance of a lifetime: taking advantage of a moment of deep crisis to buy the Caffè Concerto Paszkowski. A leap into the unknown undertaken with determination, courage and a pinch of madness. It was a winning choice. "The acquisition of Caffè Gilli, next to Paszkowski in the majestic Piazza della Repubblica, was made ten years later. It was a dream for my parents. They earned it step by step.” Gilli is a historic and luxurious café in Florence, certainly one of the oldest and most prestigious in Italy. It was opened in 1733 in Via dei Calzaiuoli, by the Swiss family of Luigi Gilli. It was then called "Bottega dei pani dolci", a sweet bread shop. He then moved to Via degli Speziali and finally to the current location in the Piazza della Repubblica. It was established as a confectionery and, later, specialised as a pastry shop, a cafe and even hosted receptions. Many famous people have walked through the doors of the two bars in Piazza della Repubblica and, to this day, it is still a landmark for personalities from politics and cinema and Italian and foreign singer-songwriters. Some names of the latest famous guests? Papini, Bono Vox, Renato Zero, Fiorella Mannoia, Apple CEO Tim Cook, De Sica, and the American actor and director Stanley Tucci.
Paszkowski has a different story, it's a different kind of place, younger in some ways. Originally it was called Caffè Centrale. It was already very large and welcoming. In 1903, the place took the name Paszkowski thanks to its acquisition by Carlo Paszkowski & Co., pioneers of the brewing industry in Italy. At the beginning of the twentieth century it established itself as a literary cafe, welcoming intellectuals such as Prezzolini, D'Annunzio, Soffici, Papini, Montale, Saba and Pratolini. As a beer house and restaurant, it added the “café concert” formula to Florentine evenings. "Music has always been very important to the locale. In the sixties, the first symphonic women's group performed here and the tradition has continued to this day. It attracts young people between the ages of 15 and 25 who meet up to come and listen to our live shows.”
For 25 years, Marco has been managing the two premises together with his sister Sonia, focusing on the absolute quality not only of the products but also of the service. "The reception must always be five-star, for each of our customers, even for those who have just one coffee.” Added to this is the variety of products, ranging from sophisticated artisan pastries and classic bar fare, to specialties for quick lunches, aperitifs and a well-stocked wine list. "After some historical research we discovered that Paszkowski was established with much more squared lines in the furnishings and therefore we plan a restructuring of 90% of the space. We are facing a complex project and we are waiting for the opinion of the authorities because both places have particular aesthetic constraints. As far as Gilli is concerned, we have to work on a few details, the area for pastries and also in the back, which is not visible but is fundamental for us.
“There are moments in life that remain in your mind and my father's conversation with Massimo is one of them: they were talking about the restructuring of Paszkowski. I can still see the light in Massimo's eyes and the passion and enthusiasm with which he and the whole company took on this project.”
" And that's where Aba comes in, a company Marco has known since he was just a kid. "I remember meeting Massimo Giaccherini for the first time at my parents' house. There are moments in life that remain in your mind and my father's conversation with Massimo is one of them. They were talking about the restructuring of Paszkowski, it was the late eighties and I was 12 or 13. I can still see the light in Massimo's eyes and the passion and enthusiasm with which he and the whole company took on this project.” From that day forward, the collaboration with Aba has never failed. "They have given us great help, especially in bringing technology into our premises and optimising operations. Because having a place setting on the right instead of the left on the counter can make a difference. And they have guided us even on these details. The management of two pillars of Florentine entertainment is a big responsibility, but we accept it with satisfaction and excitement.
"Over time with Aba, in addition to Caffè Gilli and Caffè Concerto Paszkowski, we have created three other places: Bigallo, Pasticceria Scudieri and Move On, all in the central Piazza San Giovanni, the western part of Piazza del Duomo, in front of the Baptistery. Now we are defining the projects for the creation of the new Caffè Paszkowski, scheduled for 2020. We have found a perfect partner in Aba. They never tire of studying, experimenting and listening to our every madness. I realise that, day after day, we are becoming more and more demanding with ourselves and with our suppliers. Because we want those who cross the threshold of our premises to have an unforgettable experience.”
"They have given us great help, especially in bringing technology into our premises and optimising operations. Because having a place setting on the right instead of the left on the counter can make a difference."
› B. Gallo | Firenze
› Gilli | Firenze
› Move On | Firenze
› Caffé Concerto Paszkowski | Firenze
› Pasticceria Scudieri | Firenze
WORK IN PROGRESS
› Paszkowski | Firenze