Fashion’s favorite restauranteur, Langosteria’s Enrico Buonocore on dining designers and opening in St Moritz
Fashion’s taste in food, as in clothes, is constantly changing, but in the past half decade no restauranteur anywhere has managed to welcome as many designers or luxury CEOs to his multiple restaurants as Enrico Buonocore, the founder of Langosteria.
Buonocore’s most mediatic culinary statement is Langosteria Cheval Blanc, located on the seventh floor of fashion’s hotel of the moment, Cheval Blanc Paris, with its views of the Seine and Eiffel Tower. Though his culinary beating heart will always be in Milan, where Buonocore boasts four restaurants, permanently packed with creative directors, VIPS, celebrities and the style conscious.
No trip to Milan Fashion Week, and now Paris, is complete without a meal in one of his restaurants. Everyone from Domenico Dolce or Brunello Cucinelli to Bernard Arnault dine in Langosterias. Enrico really is fashion’s favorite restauranteur.
In his latest move, in May Enrico linked up with Christian Dior on the shores of the Mediterranean at Langosteria Paraggi, at Bagni Fiore, a beautiful, secluded beach off limits to yachts, near Portofino. With a Dior pop-up store, and his entire beachfront restaurant and deckchairs fitted out in the Parisian brand’s signature toile de jouy. There was even a Dior spa at the water’s edge of Bagni Fiore, a bay that has welcomed Brigitte Bardot, Elizabeth Taylor and Maria Callas.
Matter of fact, Enrico is so tight with Dior, the Parisian fashion house’s CEO Pietro Beccari and his wife Elisabetta attended Buonocore's recent wedding in Venice, feted on Langosteria's Instagram account.
In a sense, one is no longer a true Continental connoisseur of fashion and fine living if you haven’t dined in one of Enrico’s restaurants. His menus manage to fuse stylish aesthetics with remarkably fresh seafood: like snapper and langoustine tartar served with ovuli mushrooms and thyme; monkfish served with capers and Amalfi lemons or grilled red king prawns with porcini and saffron.
So, we sat down with the talkative Buonocore to discover how he built Langosteria; how he became fashion’s favorite foodie destination and where he plans to open next. As it turns out, St Moritz in January 2023.
His roots are along the Amalfitano coastline, boasting the best lemons in the world, which he recalls his granny using in her cooking. Still today, one of his best-selling plates is the Spaghetti con Aragosta made with lobster, yellow cherry tomatoes, onions and the Amalfi lemons.
“But I was brought up in Milan, and in 2000 after finishing school my father wouldn’t let me go on vacation, as he said I hadn’t studied enough. He asked me, "did I want to work in a factory?" Which is very hard work. For two weeks I even worked in one. I ended up doing many jobs, even selling hair products, which I was pretty good at. I had a great coach, who taught me the art of selling. Convincing people to feel they are improving their live. Plus, he taught me how to use an order book. Which is not much different than being in a restaurant and taking a dinner order. But to be honnest, I realized that if I took the orders we would make no money, as I would let all my friends eat for free!” he chuckled with his signature belly laugh.
When we met, Buonocore was just back from a tour of Italy, looking for staff for his next opening in January, a mountain chalet in St Moritz, with a “bellissima” view. Though he began his culinary campaign two decades ago with a simple bar in Milan on via Savona, in a neighborhood where Armani, Zegna, Moncler and Fendi today have their Milan headquarters.
“We offered breakfast, lunch, aperitivo and dinner, with cooking by my mother. And it became fully booked for every meal! And many of the clients of that bar became clients of all my restaurants,” he recalled.
By 2007, he had opened his debut warm, wooden-floored Langosteria; in 2012 he started the seaside in the city Langosteria Bistrot; in 2016 came Langosteria Café done in an International architectural style. The beachside Paraggi followed in 2017, before developing the intimate Langosteria Cucina and the awe-inspiring Cheval Blanc last year, where French Zinc bar meets Italian conviviality and an unbeatable view. Like his fashionable clientele, he also enjoys the odd pop-up, ranging from El Paradiso in St Moritz to the Mandarin Oriental at Lake Como.
By 2018, Archive, the family office of Moncler CEO Remo Ruffini, bought 40% of the company. The valuation at the time was €38 million. Today it is over €100 million. Next year when he opens in St Moritz, his Langosteria network will be serving about 9,500 meals weekly and expects annual turnover of €48 million.
Enrico now boasts some 400 staff, ranging from about 80 chefs and kitchen staff, and 50 managers within the group. He boasts two key chefs – Dennis Pedron and Domenico Soranno. “One from Venice and the other from the other end of Italy in Puglia. So, one wants to make Cima di Rapa (turnip greens) and the other Trevisana (radish leaves),” he chuckles.
A whirlwind of energy, Enrico’s spring is spent opening Langosteria Paraggi, whose beach he leases to Belmond, the top-ranked chain controlled by LVMH, whose hotels include the Splendido in Portofino, Copacabana Palace in Rio and Mount Nelson in Cape Town.
“It’s a historic space now linked to a mythical brand with Dior Riviera. And we have to build everything, every year! After my opening my colleagues followed me there, like Vittorio from Bergamo. Arrived Cracco! Arrived Da Giacomo!” he shouts naming a trio a great north Italian restaurants.
“We have 130 seats in the restaurant, and 80 sun loungers and umbrellas. Everything finished in green Dior toile de jouy. People love Dior, and a lot of people come to the beach accessorized in Dior,” says Enrico of Paraggi, where designer Valentino Garavani had his birthday lunch, just before covid.
Like all great restauranteurs, he remains obsessed with fresh supplies, and has two small shareholders, one in Milano and one in Genoa, who supply exceptional quality vegetables and fish. Though like a true Italian, Enrico is a man of traditional personal tastes.
His favorite starters are spaghetti pomodoro, pizza bianca margherita or his own recipe, Calamaretti Spillo al'Assassina – a blend of tiny squid cooked in very hot olive oil with cherry tomatoes. While for his main, he picks the most demanded dish in Langosteria, Spaghetti with Alaskan king crab, made with crunchy Sardinian tomatoes, red onion, raspberries, raspberry vinegar and mustard.
But the DNA will always be brilliant seafood, paired with unexpected vegetables, super fresh and always artfully sliced.
“Don’t call me looking for steak. To me, restaurants must specialize. Meat and fish don’t work in the same restaurant. You need to keep them at different temperatures, and prepare them and cook them differently,” sniffs the 46-year-old.
The secret of his success?
“My credo is all about maintaining quality. I believe that many restaurants begin well, but they plateau. The other element is we create spaces that women enjoy. When a restaurant is full of women, the future is always more secure!”
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