Cipriani, the man who dropped out from Law and transformed Venice

Identità Golose’s homage to the man who made Harry's Bar an icon. Anecdotes, memories and harsh jokes

by Sonia Gioia
Arrigo Cipriani on the stage of the Auditorium wit

Arrigo Cipriani on the stage of the Auditorium with Paolo Marchi, Raffaele and Massimiliano Alajmo (photo Brambilla-Serrani)

The first exam in Law ended with a not very promising C. And good it did. Human kind lost a lawyer, but got Arrigo Cipriani instead. And it was so much better! During edition number 14, dedicated to the Human Factor, the patron at Harry’s bar in Venice received a homage from Identità golose. It was handed by Raffaele Alajmo, who often visits the place where Giuseppe Cipriani invented Bellini, Carpaccio and Arrigo. The establishment was founded in 1931, and Cipriani Jr was named after it, when he was born one year later.

«People ask me what’s the secret», he explained, his back as straight as a trunk, his sagacity finely wrapped in a pure silk pocket square. «On the 25th April 1945 I was in front of Canal Grande. I watched the amphibious vehicles of the Alleys arriving. They had confiscated Harry’s. I was a 13-year-old kid and felt freedom bursting in my heart. This memory has always been a part of my life».

A journey in history and anecdotes: a chat between Arrigo Cipriani and Raffaele Alajmo

A journey in history and anecdotes: a chat between Arrigo Cipriani and Raffaele Alajmo

«Freedom, that was the foundation of our life, our establishment, everything. Not just our freedom, but that of clients too. My father designed the chairs having in mind that people had to feel comfortable. No imposition, no constraints. This is why we have small cutlery. They’re easy to use. This is why our tables are at a specific height: children, and myself, having short legs, we don’t consider it a detail. There’s a thousand small details conceived round the person, which contribute to the soul of a place – such as linen tablecloths and more. It’s not god [in Cipriani’s dictionary, god is written with a small G], it’s us who give a soul to things».

Paolo Marchi teases him: «So what did you think when the Alajmos got rid of tablecloths?». Cipriani: «That they had saved 160000 euros per year». The audience roared with laughter.

Chastising mottos, historic and literature anecdotes. Harry’s bar means HemingwayDe AndréPaolo Conte. All public figures, big and small, have been here, enjoying Il Lusso della Semplicità [the Luxury of simplicity, the title of one of the many books by Cipriani junior]. That is to say the soul of a place where «those who call to book a table will just hear: Harry’s, that’s it. No robotic, homologating and fake courteous formulas such as: Harry’s bar, how may I help you?».

Everyone in the audience in the Auditorium enjoyed and cheered  the man who created a myth of Harry's bar in Venice

Everyone in the audience in the Auditorium enjoyed and cheered  the man who created a myth of Harry's bar in Venice

No, that’s doesn’t make luxury. Alajmo: «Arrigo Cipriani and Harry’s are more famous than Massimo Bottura and Francescana: 3000 collaborators, 27 restaurants around the world». Then Alajmo confirms and stresses a concept: «There are no nibbles, there’s no explaining the dishes, but a classic Venetian cuisine that hints at Italian cuisine. Simple flavours, but originally presented. There are no wine glasses with a stem, just glasses from 100 years ago. But when you arrive, you’re happy and completely at loss. It cannot be compared to any other restaurant. This is exactly what happened to the colleagues from the Grande table du monde: we arrived all together, filling the place, and stocked up on liver alla veneziana».

Cipriani: «Indeed. We’d never put liquorice in the risotto». Laughter, on the stage and in the audience. And cheers. What a pity, had Arrigo Cipriani become a lawyer. What a pity that some speeches are never long enough. 
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


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