Alberto Alessi: the best coffee in Milan

The president of this famous Italian design company, founded by his grandfather 100 years ago, which has become well known for its work with some of the greatest creatives of our age – from Philippe Starck to Virgil Abloh – tells us where to get the best coffee in Milan. Which is only fitting, as Alessi has produced some of the most iconic coffee makers of all time

During the recent furniture fair in Milan I staged an exhibition – Alessi 100-001 – to celebrate our centenary and express the 12 core values of Alessi through looking at work we have done over the years, and reimagining it. One of these values is “poetry” and I maintain that to be a good designer you must first of all be a poet. 

Poetry, from the Greek poiesis, means creation, and the task of a designer is to create something that makes us look at ourselves from within and raise ourselves a little above the level of material existence; in short, to live our lives really to the full. I’ve always thought that design is essentially a creative discipline that is purely poetic and artistic in nature. 

The product I chose from our archives to be emblematic of poetic design is one of many prototypes that Riccardo Dalisi (a Compasso d’Oro winner) created for the company. During the design process that in the ’70s brought to fruition the production of his Neapolitan coffee maker, Riccardo Dalisi sent us hundreds of prototypes, each different from one another, and growingly expressive, to the point of losing their functional appearance and ascending to the level of a piece of art. It was a practice unparalleled in the history of design. 

Indeed, the research and development of this piece took nearly a decade, starting in 1979 and finishing in 1987, the longest such process in Alessi’s 100-year history. The resulting shiny steel coffee maker won Dalisi one of his two Compasso d’Oros and is an acknowledged classic of design, becoming a collector’s item. 

Now, we have released a new version to celebrate Alessi’s centenary. The Caffettiera con cuore e stelle(coffee maker with heart and stars) is limited to just 999 pieces and is rendered in copper, which is the material that was used when this style of coffee maker was first invented in the early 19th century. The model we have revived from one of Dalisi’s many prototypes features a sprinkling of brass stars and a single heart to be discovered by the user. Each pot is entirely handmade by artisans on Rua Catalana – a Neapolitan street that has been the centre of the city’s tinsmithing industry since 1300. It is a beautiful reimagining of a practical kitchen tool, and it makes great coffee. 

And so to my tip: it is not some backstreet bar that I would direct you to for a great cup of coffee in Milan, but a hotel. The Hotel Manzoni in Via Santo Spirito makes a really good one; and also does great cold coffee too.


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