Di Maggio’s footprint in Scotland is a lot bigger now that Amarone in Edinburgh is serving up a slice of Italy in a former bank on Edinburgh’s St Andrews Square. The 215-cover bar/restaurant is vast in size, and dwarfs its sister restaurant in Glasgow. What also sets Edinburgh apart is its corner position and the fact it’s on the ground floor (Amarone Glasgow is in a basement) – plus it’s a grade A-listed building with built-in WOW factors, including beautiful big original windows, and giant dome in the ceiling with little porthole windows. In other words there was a wealth of gems in the building before CM Design Consultants got its teeth into the brief from Di Maggio’s co-owners Mario Gizzi and Tony Conetta, who earmarked £1M for the refurbishment.
Mark Brunjes of CM commented, “The building dates back to the 1930s and has many terrific original features so, naturally, this greatly influenced how we approached the design. The brief was to further develop the brand concept of Amarone Glasgow, with key features such as the colour-changing lighting and wood-burning pizza oven. Although we’ve also included a few custom-made additions for Amarone Edinburgh.”
The entrance to the restaurant is just to the right of the main entrance to an office block in the Capitol Building, which houses several businesses on its upper floors, and counts itself as one of the tallest buildings in the capital. Being right on the corner, there are three parts to Amarone in all – the bar and two restaurant areas, with covers split between 50 in the former and 165 in the latter. From the outside, the bar is on the right-hand side of the corner, and a part of the restaurant on the left-hand side.
The first thing that strikes you is the bar, which runs right along the far wall, with a shiny mirrored back bar with wooden wine racks that run all the way up to the ceiling, and pinkish-grey marble top. Black and pink is a theme that runs throughout the rest of Amarone, notably the large circular lightshades (black on the outside with a pink silk inlay) and the black velour seating with tiny pink flecks, providing continuity with Amarone Glasgow. This area has a cream tiled floor, and the walls, in keeping with the rest of the design, are painted light cream, and there are high tables for larger groups with marble tops to match the bar. You can perch at the bar and around the tables on sturdy, and extremely comfy, stools upholstered in black and pink velour material.
Next to the bar is a wood burning pizza oven surrounded by a Porcelanosa slate effect wall, which is fast becoming a bit of a Di Maggio trademark. On the wall opposite are black and white pictures of Italy. Photographer Paul Zanre’s work hangs throughout the restaurant. He snapped Verona, Lake Garda and the wine regions of Amarone on his travels.
Moving beyond the bar and pizza oven and you’re into perhaps the most impressive part of Amarone – the first part of the 165-cover restaurant. The domed ceiling is made up of lots of little circular windows, like portholes, so light streams in by day. By night, there are four lights trained on the ceiling, and the all the colours of the spectrum are projected onto it, changing very gradually every few minutes. Hanging from the ceiling are several huge white mobiles, made from fairly thin strands of cord, and reminiscent of jelly fish in the sea, especially when the lights turn bluish-green. Unsurprisingly this is what prompts the most comments from customers and it’s the part of the restaurant Tony and Mario are most proud of. Below are black ash tables and chairs, and on the walls there are more mounted vistas of Italian landscapes and sporting milestones, like Italy’s national squad celebrating its 2008 World Cup win.
An entire wall has also been devoted to coloured Murano blown glass figures and vases, which, according to GM Michael Prior, were imported from Italy. There are vases, and some multi-coloured fish, and the theme extends to above the coffee machine, in the form of a lone blown glass cockerel. “It’s a lucky mascot from Tony’s mother!” says Michael. The floor in this area is wooden the walls are cream apart from a bit of walnut panelling at the base, and some mirrors which are tilted at an angle to give the effect of even more space. Not that this is in any way necessary, as the ceiling is so high and it’s so bright you could almost be outside.
Up a few steps, almost coming back around on yourself and you’re in what CM design dubbed the St Andrews elevation, because it commands fantastic views across St Andrews Square on the opposite corner to the bar. It’s a bit plusher than the rest of Amarone, thanks to the thick grey carpet, black leather banquettes and those huge black and pink lightshades. This area has many of the buildings original features, and the majority of the huge grey pillars, which look a bit like trees. There were also some structural changes made here. Explains Mark Brunjes, “A fire exit meant that one of the windows had been blocked, but we were able to move the exit elsewhere, and open up the window. As well as making a tremendous difference to the light and the view it also balances out with the number of windows on the bar side of the corner.”
Even more black and white pictures cover the walls in here, plus mirrors and pictures that have been blown up and mounted, so every corner is busy with design. I also want to mention the large ‘A’ that hangs in each of the windows, in sympathy with the original design and can be illuminated at night.
There’s also a glimpse of an original internal stained glass window in the above property, which can be glimpsed through a glass hole in the wall, but the best clues to Amarone’s past life lurk in the basement. Through the door marked toilets opposite the oven, an original green metal spiralled staircase takes you down to the basement where there are other original features like the cast iron walk-in safe door, plus a smaller combination hatch safe. The kitchens are located down here as are the toilets. And these have been decorated in rich copper tones, square sinks and taps and lots of posh hand wash and moisturiser.
The design has capitalised on the versatility of the building, and each of the three spaces has its own unique appeal.