When considering the name and design for his first restaurant, Francesco Longo settled on “Baffo” (Italian for moustache) and ran with it. From a red neon moustache glowing on the building’s dark frontage to bold black moustache logos printed on brightly coloured menus and pizza boxes, and a three-foot version spray-painted in white across one wall – the humble Tache has become a key design feature in the latest pizza place in Glasgow’s West End.
The 31-year-old admits that when he came up with “Baffo”, he didn’t plan on having the place littered with facial hair references but was inspired by the input of Glasgow design and branding agency D8. Francesco explained, “I chose the name because I wanted something really simple – an Italian word people would know and remember but still be able to say! I didn’t have any intention of having moustaches anywhere but I took the name to branding company and they came up with his incredible, eye-catching design. People have good fun with it. I don’t take life too seriously and think this place should be a bit of fun too.” Fun is definitely a good starting point to describe the small, open-plan eatery, which is a far cry from what you might expect from a “traditional Italian restaurant”.
It feels bright, vibrant, relaxed and contemporary with plenty of eye-catching features. Francesco took on all of the design himself and worked with Glasgow-based joiner Patrick Gallagher of Willowrose Joinery to transform the space formerly occupied by The Pelican restaurant on 1377 Argyle Street. Francesco said, “I wanted to stay away from your traditional Italian look. No white tablecloths and Chianti wine bottles here instead it is a lot cleaner and more modern.” He ran the place as The Pelican from February and closed at the end of May for refurbishments. The redesign was a five-week process and the restaurant reopening as Baffo mid-August. Francesco explained, “We’ve changed a lot. The bar has been moved from the middle to the left wall. It was a really horrible green colour with random booze bottles hanging from the ceiling.
I got rid of those and lowered the ceiling slightly to create a bit more intimacy.” The former dark green decor has been replaced with a muted colour scheme of grey walls, white and grey gleaming tiles behind the bar and kitchen, and plenty of exposed stonework unearthed during the refit. Francesco said, “That was an accident! We started taking the place apart and saw a little patch of it and managed to uncover it about one foot behind the existing wall. All it needed was a good clean. It’s probably about 120 years old! There’s a few little surface gaps and holes here and there but I wanted to keep those to help give the place a bit of character.” The bar and adjacent kitchen are open plan. A curved bar runs from opposite the front door to the back of the restaurant’s seated area. It is clad in the same white and grey tiles as the walls until it reaches the kitchen pass, where wooden panels are decorated in a patchwork of bold, primary coloured rectangles.
The bar top is made from a light wood and is lit by seven dome-shaped copper lights with glass surrounds, hung at various heights. The box shelving gantry is made from a similar light wood and is home to a range of Italian wines imported from Italy. As well as 10 Italian beers in the fridge, Baffo also serves Menabrea lager and Glera prosecco, both on tap. A strip of hexagonal white, grey and beige tiles extends about three feet from the bar and merges seamlessly with the wood-effect flooring made of Karndean, used throughout. Francesco said, “The tiles merging into the floor is similar to something I saw on Pinterest. I found flooring that I liked, gave it a shot and it worked!” On the opposite side of the restaurant, a black half booth runs the entire length of the right-hand wall beside three, four-seater tables with light wood tops. Three four-seater back booths can be found along the street-facing wall beside huge windows that offer stunning views of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. “It’s not a bad view to look out at everyday!” Francesco admits. Above each booth hangs clusters of five lights from Pagazzi Lighting with exposed light bulbs and minimalist black metal cubed frames. To create even more light, Francesco added a fourth window to the front of the restaurant in place of The Pelican second doorway. A grey wall parallel to the bar divides the back of the restaurant in half and is punctuated with small sections of exposed stonework. It is surrounded by white-topped tables with stainless steel bases and black, plastic chairs with wooden legs. Pops of colour come from the restaurant’s funky branding. Tall orange drinks menus grace each table and a row of red and blue Baffo pizza boxes, all bearing Baffo’s solid black moustache logo, line the right-hand wall on a shelf above the black booth seating. Francesco explained, “I chose neutral colours as a base because I wanted the menus and the branding to pop out.
I decided to keep it nice and simple and let the place tell its own story with the branding.” Another key design feature is what Francesco describes as the “absolute heart of Baffo”. A white domed pizza oven dominates the rear of the kitchen which is all stainless steel and fitted by New Concept Ltd. It’s an open kitchen and can be spied as soon as you come in the front door. Ironically, the oven actually looks a little like an igloo. A contemporary take on the traditional pizza oven, it is unusually not wood-fired but powered by gas and was shipped all the way from Modena in northern Italy. A lot of thought has gone into the bathrooms too.
Black, white and grey geometric designed tiles, sourced from Cosmo Ceramics, large white ceramic sinks from Italian supplier Scope, and large mirror with a deep grid border of small, square mirror tiles in the ladies’ bathroom, combine for a bright and classy effect. In an effort to preserve features of the original building but utilise as much space as possible, an old fireplace opposite the kitchen is now used to store sacks of flour and tinned tomatoes shipped direct from Naples. To create Baffo’s authentic Italian pizzas, which is also offered in gigantic “Mezzo Metro” (half-metre) portions, Francesco also imports his mozzarella and meat from Italy. His two head pizza chefs are also Italian.
While it might be his first restaurant, Francesco has both Italy and the hospitality trade in his blood. His parents Enzo and Elizabeth own the popular Scots-Italian restaurant Barbarossa in Cathcart. Francesco started helping out there when he was 13. He would work at the family restaurant on and off for 15 years, eventually taking on the role of co-director before branching out on his own. Francesco describes the difference between Baffo and the traditional Italian decor of Barbarossa as “night and day”, but “Mum and Dad love it.” The owner says he still has some little touches to add, including more designs painted directly onto the stone walls. Will there be any more moustaches, I wonder? “Maybe, especially if the team and myself decide to take part in Movember… we probably should!” jokes Francesco.