Earlier this month, two paragons of Italian excellence teamed up for a national first. Leading pastry chef Iginio Massari opened a shop in a Milan branch of Intesa Sanpaolo, Italy’s largest bank.
Massari, 75, founder and owner of the vaunted Pasticceria Veneto in the northern city of Brescia, is now offering his famous monoporzioni, panettoni, bossolà and other delicacies in entirely novel surroundings – within Intesa Sanpaolo’s busy branch on Via Guglielmo Marconi, a stone’s throw from the cathedral in the heart of Milan.
“For many years I’d been considering the idea of opening a bakery in this city,” Massari says. “And Intesa Sanpaolo seemed to provide a bold and perfect context to do it. A bank with cakes? It’s a challenge I’m greatly looking forward to. I am proud to be the first pastry chef in Italy to open in a bank.”
‘It’s all in the spirit of creating greater, richer connections with our customers’
For Intesa Sanpaolo, the reasons for collaborating with Massari were numerous. First of all was the chance to make customers’ visits to one of its branches a more enjoyable experience. In an age of digital banking, when more and more people are performing transactions remotely, it makes sense for an institution such as Intesa Sanpaolo to broaden the offerings available on site.
In recent years, the bank’s branches have also played host to fashion shows and musical performances. In October 2017, that on Milan’s Corso Vercelli even opened an outlet of Puro Gusto (the contemporary café chain owned by Italian operator in food and beverage services for travellers worldwide Autogrill).
“It’s all in the spirit of creating greater, richer connections with our customers, as well as creating connections between our customers,” says Andrea Lecce, head of marketing at Intesa Sanpaolo’s Banca dei Territori, domestic commercial banking division. “We want our branches to have an atmosphere of openness and interaction.”
Photo credits: Sara Busiol
Almost like mini indoor piazzas, one might say. In the specific case of Massari, Lecce adds: “Sweets and pastries are part of the world of dreams. They evoke moments of joy and celebration, and we believe that we at Intesa Sanpaolo contribute to making such moments, too – with home mortgages, student loans and other offerings.”
Massari opened Pasticceria Veneto in 1971, since when he has been inundated with plaudits. In its prestigious annual guide Pasticceri & Pasticcerie, the food and drink magazine Gambero Rosso has named Massari’s pastry shop the best in Italy every year since 2011 – as well as awarding it the sought-after Tre Torte (or “Three Cakes”, the equivalent of three Michelin stars).
Maestro Massari, as he is sometimes known, is also a guest on the Italian version of Masterchef. He has written a number of books on cake-making and was even mentor of the Italy team that won the 2015 World Pastry Cup.
Intesa Sanpaolo takes pride in its aim never to be simply financial. It tries to add to the cultural richness of society, too. And like the art it owns and displays at its trio of free-to-enter galleries (the Gallerie d’Italia in Milan, Naples and Vicenza), Massari’s pastries are a fine expression of such richness.
‘I am proud to be the first pastry chef in Italy to open in a bank’Iginio Massari, award-winning pastry chef
His new shop on Via Guglielmo Marconi is open seven days a week, with a separate entrance from that of the bank. It includes an on-site “laboratory”, where – in full view of the customers and, indeed, passers-by on the street outside – his staff create the sweet treats for sale.
This, of course, is something entirely consistent with the “atmosphere of openness” emphasised by Lecce. The staff may also be seen experimenting with ideas for the occasional new pastry or perhaps taste-testing the existing ones – Massari is known to try each piece in his repertoire every six months – in a bid to re-evaluate and see whether they need modifying.
The architect of the 120sq m Milan space, Andrea Stramigioli (of the firm Stramigioli Associates), has opted for an interior design marked by clean lines and white walls. It stands out for not standing out – leaving all the focus on the pastries and pastry-makers. Stramigioli has also introduced a 30sq m seating area outside, allowing patrons to enjoy some of Massari’s signature delights (such as the pepper and cinnamon praline) at leisure.
“As was also the case with the opening of Puro Gusto, the arrival of Iginio Massari marks an innovative, new way of receiving people at a bank,” says Lecce. “The customer is placed at the centre of a social environment, where ‘sharing’ is the watchword. At Intesa Sanpaolo, we’re always looking for ways in which our relationship with our customers can be enriched and advanced.”
Cover credits: Sara Busiol
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