One of the landmarks of Milanese hospitality since the 1920s and a symbol of sophisticated luxury: the Principe di Savoia seduces its guests with a mixture of exclusivity and customized services.
If it is true that the Principe di Savoia has made the history of the hospitality industry, it is also true that History, with a capital H, has slept in its bedrooms, walked through its passages, relaxed in its lounges and dined at its restaurant. In fact, since the 1920s – 1927 to be exact – the hotel, with its austere and imposing neo-classical façade, has welcomed travelers from all over the world, and there is not one head of state, crowned head, actor or celebrity who has not stayed here at least once. “Although the Principe di Savoia is a part of the world’s hotel heritage, it has managed to keep abreast of the times, combining tradition and innovation, old-world luxury and cutting-edge technology” says the head concierge Nicola Ciccone, who is an institution at the Principe, which he joined in March 1977 as a bellboy working his way up to his current position which involves overseeing a staff of 18 people. “The Principe boasts one of the ‘largest’ concierge teams in the hotel business which, though unusual, allows us to establish a personal rapport with each and every customer”, says the head concierge. “ This means that we are on call 24 hours a day. It goes without saying that team work is indispensable when it comes to delivering messages or sharing information, and this is fostered by our teams’ low turnover, and the sense of belonging that has been established within the group.” A crucial role like the one played by a concierge requires passion and lots of savoir-faire. “A concierge is a reference point for customers, someone who not only needs to have a good knowledge of the city and its environs, but also the know-how to overcome obstacles, often of a bureaucratic nature, enabling him or her to satisfy customer requests. Then again, total discretion and empathy guarantee that customers put their trust in the concierge; ‘entrusting’ themselves to him/her in a world, like our present one, where all you need is a smartphone to check out any information. Moreover, in our line of business there are no such things as Saturdays or Sundays or public holidays”, continues Ciccone, “A concierge always has to make himself available. Being always available, at a hotel like the Principe, often means satisfying the most bizarre requests made by celebrities, like finding, at short notice, a plane capable of transporting 500 Easter eggs to Romania, or knowing how to follow the correct protocol when dealing with royalty: “This is the most exciting part of our job,”explains Ciccone, “You get to meet some awesome people. For example, I have a clear memory of Alberto Sordi who stopped by our desk to tell us jokes, or Dino Zoff, the famous Italian goalkeeper who jokingly called me ‘my colleague’ because, according to him, he and I had a job in common, either ‘letting or not letting them through’. We see the whole world passing by and making history.” The ability to provide customers with a highly personalized service is one of the advantages of the Principe di Savoia, which welcomes guests to the hotel, which has 257 rooms and 44 suites including, first and foremost, the exclusive Presidential suite, the quintessence of luxury which even has a private spa.
A triumph of flavours
The real jewel in the crown of this five-star luxury hotel is its culinary fare, interpreted in a skilful mix of traditional, classic and contemporary dishes, and blended to perfection by Fabrizio Cadei, executive chef of Acanto, the elegant restaurant at the Principe di Savoia, which has become a reference point for Milanese gourmets in search of intriguing high-quality food. “The memory of what you eat while dining should linger on in your mind”, explains Cadei, the patron of three kitchens and a team of 46 staff. “In order to achieve my goal I focus on the meticulous search for unusual ingredients (Cadei has introduced some almost unknown ingredients into his menu such as the ‘pastinaca’, (a type of white carrot that has a chestnuty aftertaste, editor’s note). He embraces innovative cooking methods that respect the ingredients used, with pairings that not only amaze but which also celebrate individual flavours and makes use of appealing presentations.” Following his ‘debut’ in Bergamo Alta at the age of 18, Fabrizio Cadei moved to London to work as a chef de partie at the Hyde Park Hotel – where he cooked for celebrity customers including Pavarotti and Madonna. He then relocated to Lyon to work at the two Michelin starred restaurant, Leon de Lyon, under chef proprietor Jean-Paul Lacombe. In the 1990s, he moved to Rome for the opening of the Hotel Eden run by Rocco Forte where, in the space of just one year, he earned the restaurant a nomination for the Best Hotel Restaurant in Italy and its first Michelin star. He left Rome to work on a 3-month internship program under the guidance of Ezio Santin, patron of La Cassinetta di Lugagnano, which earned three Michelin stars with its robust cuisine, serving as a stark contrast to the then fashionable nouvelle cuisine offered by Gualtiero Marchesi. The following stages of his career included stints at the Hayman Island resort hotel in Australia, at the Crowne Plaza in Rome and at Grosvenor House in London – where he became the executive chef of three restaurants and the banqueting manager of spaces designed to accommodate up to 1,900 diners. In 2007, he finally made his debut at the Principe di Savoia. “When it comes to cooking, my favourite dishes are the traditional risottos of Lombardy and the fish specialties of Southern Italy. I would definitely use this pairing to represent Milan’s multi-cultural nature. My idea would be to serve a Milanese risotto topped with a slice of Umbrine and tomatoes. On the other hand, among the dishes that I have created, I am particularly fond of Plin ravioli stuffed with Lebanese-style eggplant caviar and a sesame seed cream, served on a mousse of parsley, potatoes, Cetara anchovies and toasted pine nuts.”
In vino veritas
A worthy companion of Ceres, Bacchus also plays a premier role at the Principe di Savoia: its wine list offers a selection of 650 Italian and foreign labels –a real enological trip around the world, featuring international icons, rarities and grand cru –while its wine cellar stocks around 20,000 bottles. Surprisingly, its sommelier and wine director is a woman, the dynamic Alessandra Veronesi who is also the manager of the Acanto restaurant since September. “It is truly exciting to coordinate a wine list as rich as ours. I always try to update and refresh it, and I also do everything to ensure that it is as dynamic as possible by changing the wines on a yearly basis according to their vintages, our customers’ requests. and changes in tastes and pairings. For example, lately, the classic fish-white wine pairing no longer necessarily applies and, when it comes to complex dishes, preference is now often given to reds that are low on tannins. Alternately, with oysters, instead of Champagne, I suggest a muscadet. The Principe di Savoia’s clientele tend to favour full-bodied reds – from Barbaresco to Brunello and Masseto – which represent 75% of the wines requested by diners.”
A customized service
The Principe di Savoia offers custom-tailored services and ultra-sophisticated food & beverages as well as five-star relaxation at Club 10, the exclusive fitness & beauty centre where guests can pamper themselves with either a beauty treatment or a massage. For those who wish to relax, Club 10 offers a sauna, a Turkish bath and a whirlpool and fitness fanatics can start their day with an energizing session at the gym.