200 years of Cova
Text Giuseppe Fantasia
In France like in Italy, cafés plays a key role in social life, a sort of private a public salon together, where everyone seats, reflects and talks about places which encourage social interaction but also a more creative and intellectual debate. In Milan, a reference point in this sense, located in a neoclassic palace on the corner of via Montenapoleone and via Sant’Andrea, is represented by Pasticceria Cova, which strikes for its timeless charm and its long and uninterrupted history. From Verdi to Puccini, from Toscanini to Mascagni, from Eleonora Duse to Arrigo Boito – who frequented it before or after their performances at La Scala Theatre – Cova was the café of culture par excellence, but also the café of politics since Garibaldi and Mazzini used to stop over there and discuss about strategies in its lounges. Marlene Dietrich, Luchino Visconti and Maria Callas declared many times – thanks to Ernest Hemingway’s quotations in his two books, to have discovered its beauty long before frequenting it personally.
On the occasion of two-hundred years of history of the iconic patisserie, Assouline publishing house celebrates it with the book Pasticceria Cova, inspired from memories and stories of those who have experienced the history and the tradition of the most ancient patisserie in Milan, which was able to hand down from generation to generation the excellence of the expertise and the values of craftsmanship and quality of its products, beside customers’ attention. This is what Paola and Daniela Faccioli, daughters of the well-known Mario, write “an Atlas who has born the destinies of Cova at the end of the Twentieth century” – and who, in 2013, have sold off their majority shares to Möet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) group.
Leafing through these pages, besides the text (with a preface by Alain Elkann), you will get stunned by Harald Gottschalk and Giovanni Gastel’s pictures that retrace the major landmarks of this bicentennial history, “a story made of Italian character, craftsmanship and passion” – explains Paola Faccioli, CEO at Cova – “pages which convey the commitment and the dedication which we purse every day and that turn a seemingly simple work into a veritable mission.” “An ancient history– she continues – which starts in 1817, when Antonio Cova, the twenty-three-years-old son of a couple of grocers and a Napoleonic official on leave, opened Caffé del Giardino in a palace on the corner in front of la Scala Theatre, which soon changed its name into Offelleria Cova, but everyone will always call it Cova, to underline the importance of the human factor. Then, in 1988, our father took it over and since then he has never stopped. A passion and a dedication to work which we still prosecute today.”
Giovanni Gastel, a famous photographer and nephew of Luchino Visconti, defines Cova as “a place where you can always feel at home.” Cheerful and breezy, “it strikes you like a person, for its way of welcoming you, for the quality and its sense of humour. It is an example of ethics and middle-class – he adds – that is that absolute participation in what you do, and in doing it at your best, this is also what I teach my students. Will, elegance, rigour and professionalism are the key to success.” The real luxury? “One should be able to experience it at different levels and intensities, it is something that has to do with the value of things, and not with their price.”
Obviously, the historical seat always remains the one in Milan, but since 1994, several Pasticcerie Cova were opened also in Japan and China – five in Shanghai– and recently also in Shenzhen, Montecarlo and Dubai. If you are in Milan in the warmest season, you should not miss the Cova garden in the inner courtyard, the perfect place to sip a cocktail or have a light meal relaxing (and getting lost) amidst such beauty. The real one.