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Friday, July 16, 2010

Caffe Bolongaro


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The exterior of Caffe Bolongaro, across from the Imbarcadero.

There was live music last night at Caffe Bolongaro, and there will be music again tonight. In fact, there will be live music just about every night this summer at the bar caffe, which is located in Piazza Matteotti, just next to the municipal offices and just across the street from the Stresa Imbarcadero. It's hard to miss the caffe, as it sits front and center on the lakefront, as it has since at least 1840 according to the oldest known records of it, and fills the piazza with red tablecloth-covered tables and umbrellas. And from my experience those tables are filled many times during the day and most evenings.

But while you're sitting at the caffe listening to the night's band, also take a good long look at the sign over the front door. This historic and beautiful Art Deco sign was carefully restored last year by Luisa Panfani, a restoration artist from Torino. It dates from 1906, and three years ago, when the owners of the caffe began searching for a restorer, it was just a blackish rectangular sign, having been unfortunately painted over many times over the years. But underneath all that paint were colors that were waiting to be brought back to life. Others had refused, but Panfani took on the challenge.

The temporary sign during restoration...


...and the 'new' sign, brought back to 1906 Art Deco splendor.

Now, once again, the sign shines, not with electricity, but with its original colors, golden letters glowing on a red background. The design, compared to others of the same era in Torino, is considered to have been ahead of its time, with its combination of Liberty and Art Deco styles, and its very modern -- at the time -- use of the words 'Tea Room' in English.

So take a moment, while relaxing at Caffe Bolongaro, to admire the sign you are looking at, now that you know a little bit more about it. It is more than a sign, it's art.. and a bit of Stresiani history.

All enjoy a jazz quartet performing outside Caffe Bolongaro in Piazza Matteotti.


Caffe Bolongaro was the site of another bit of Stresa history as well. It was here that the first Margheritine di Stresa cookies were created, prepared for the first communion of Margherita di Savoia, the future queen.


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