Lorenzo Lisi is an Italian entrepreneur - restaurateur and hotelier - born and raised in Rome. After living and working in many countries around the world, Lorenzo decided to return home and take over the reigns of the family business. Today, Lorenzo manages the upscale Pierluigi restaurant and is guided by the vision that meals should be prepared in a traditional Italian manner, but with innovative accents. Consequently, Pierluigi is one of the best restaurants in Rome and is a firm favourite among discerning locals as well as international celebrities and politicians including Kourtney Kardashian, Jude Law, Selena Gomez and Hillary Clinton just to name a few. Lorenzo’s latest exciting venture is Hotel De’ Ricci - a unique boutique hotel in the heart of Rome which offers wine lovers an exceptional experience. The hotel has recently been included in the 100 Hottest Hotels of 2018 list by Conde Nast traveler. Lorenzo is also a great art enthusiast and collaborated with Boonji founder Brendan Murphy to host an art show exhibiting Brendan’s work.
Lorenzo, Pierluigi restaurant you manage alongside your dad, has a long, rich history. Did you always want to join the family business?
It was not at all in my plans to come back and work for my family business. I went to university in Switzerland and for many years worked abroad in Brazil, USA and Australia. After almost 12 years far from Rome, my father started wondering if I was ever coming back, so he called me with the excuse of a vacation in Italy. We started chatting and I realised there was a huge potential so I decided to stay.
Can you tell us what it’s like running one of the best seafood restaurants in Rome?
I think that running a great restaurant in Rome is not different than running one in Los Angeles or London. Our business is HOSPITALITY, which means that is a business made by people providing an experience for other people. Running a business like ours means being able to interact and relate to the good sides and the bad sides of every person surrounding us all day - suppliers, employees, clients. The fun part is service and making our clients happy and smiley. They probably will not remember my name or the dish, but they will always remember how good they felt sitting at Pierluigi, and that is our success.
In success there is no secret, it takes many hours of concentration, dedication and professionalism to achieve great results - me and all my team believe in this policy.
Do you enjoy putting together a menu with a chef and coming up with new dishes? Is it something that allows you to exercise your creativity?
Do you know that it takes more or less 3 months to change a menu in my restaurant, and we change 2/3 menus per year? First step in creating a new menu is the creative side, the fun side, made of selection of products (always seasonal and super fresh), trials, experiments, adjustments, set up and lay out. At this time, the interaction with kitchen chef and all his team is fundamental. We come up with hundreds of new things but then we have to select very few. This process take at least 1 1/2 month, because meanwhile the restaurant is open, we have the usual schedule to follow. Once the food is selected, we must decide on the decor, sizes, pricing and graphic layout on the menu. Translate it to 3 languages, recheck that everything has been done correctly, print and place it online on our website. This last part is my nightmare because it is so easy to make mistakes.....
You’ve had many famous customers at Pierluigi over the years, including movie stars and politicians. Can you tell us meeting which celebrity has been especially memorable and exciting?
The most memorable and exciting are the ones I can not talk about for secrecy and privacy! But I can tell you this, when they are sitting at our tables all our clients feel like celebrities. Sometimes it happens that on the table next to yours there is your beloved actor, politician, sport idol, singer, tv host, from anywhere in the world, and you realise it only 30 min later he/she has been sitting next to you. Once a fan realises that his idol is sitting at the same moment in the same restaurant, anything can happen...... I have seen many funny, weird things. From flowers to bottles of champagne, to singing out loud in the middle of the restaurant with 200 people looking at you his/her famous song (in the case of singers), to love declarations, while your husband or wife are waiting at the table. I have seen a diplomatic incident of gigantic proportions that no one will ever know about.
Your latest exciting venture is opening a boutique hotel in the heart of Rome. Can you tell us more about Hotel De’ Ricci.
Hotel De ricci is an amazing hospitality experience in a city like Rome. Business or leisure, we try to be on top of our clients' expectations. Hotel De’ Ricci is located in a luxury building on Via della Barchetta 14, just off the peaceful Piazza De’ Ricci. Both are in the heart of the Regola Rione, one of the most authentic neighbourhoods in Rome, famous for its antique dealers, art galleries and historic wine shops. The Hotel’s position is strategic, in the centre of the most important artistic triangle of the Capital: within walking distance are the Vatican City, St. Peter’s Basilica, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon and Campo De’ ‘Fiori. Via Giulia, one of the “noblest” streets in Rome, is literally just around the corner. Hotel De’ Ricci is a boutique hotel with only 8 suites: an ideal residence for wine lovers who can find a vast and cultured selection of more than 1,500 labels and a team of experts capable of creating a custom-made experience. The hotel staff, in fact, are composed exclusively of professional sommeliers. Guests can be guided through a memorable itinerary, from the initial welcome aperitif, to private wine tastings, meetings with wine producers and even Private Wine Tours, to discover the best cellars and vineyards in Italy and France.
The design of the hotel and the attention to detail are outstanding. Which designers and artists did you collaborate with to achieve such beautiful results?
Our architect is Simone Di Girolamo, a brilliant young professions that has been working in many successful projects all around the world. Beside him with have chosen the artistic taste and knowledge of Andrea Ferolla and Daria Raina for all the decor.
Apart from outstanding design and service, Hotel De’ Ricci offers wine lovers a very unique experience. Can you tell us more about it and how this idea was born?
If you think about wine, you think about pleasure. If you had a bad day at work, once you get home or in a bar with friends, you ask for a glass of wine. If you have been promoted you toast with a glass of wine. Marriage or funeral, glass of wine. Coco Chanel said:" I only drink champagne in two occasions, when I am in love, and when I am not." And if wine is so much related to pleasure, vacation is too. I wanted to blend this 2 worlds in 1, they have always been parallel to each others but never joined in one full experience, and the results are outstanding. All our employees are professional sommeliers that have been trained to work in the hotel, but at any given time they can start a private degustation or tasting of your most wanted wine in the beauty and privacy of your private room or private terrace.
What’s the best thing about running a boutique hotel?
Interaction with clients. We get to know wonderful people and really create a bond. We are able to provide a customised service, tailor made experience for the client's satisfaction. Running a boutique hotel is like managing those fancy expensive residential building facing Central Park..... you have all the building guests relying on your knowledge and efficiency to provide the best service possible, to make their day as pleasurable as possible, you and all your team put all the efforts to always perform better than expected. It is a matter of trust, and trust has no price and is only given once. The only advantage (in a boutique hotel) is that I own the building.
What’s the most difficult thing about running a boutique hotel?
It is a matter of trust, and trust has no price and is only given once.
Do you like going to art galleries and museums? Any particular artist that you love and are inspired by?
I was born in Rome....... this city is an open air museum, I go for an ice-cream or walk my two Jack Russells and pass in front of the most impressive artwork from before Christ to the 18th century. The building in front of Pierluigi Restaurant, is one of the few remaining in the world with authentic frescoes on the facade from Polidoro da Caravaggio.... and I spend all my day there in front of it. To reply to your question, yes I do go to art galleries and museums, a lot. I would say Gian Lorenzo Bernini for sculptures, but then Michelangelo, Caravaggio and all the Renaissance period.....
If you had to save 3 items from your home, what would they be? Tell us about your most prized possessions or things that have sentimental value.
My motorcycle collection, all Ducati. I bought my first one, a Ducati monster 1000 when I was 24. I spent all my savings and had no money to fill up the tank with gasoline. Just the knowledge of owning it, and look at it in my garage filled me with joy. Now I lost a bit of control and I am buying all the most iconic Ducati in history. My vintage Eberhard watch, I find it so romantic and elegant. Not pretentious at all, but still everyone wants to know what I am wearing on my wrist. My Bonsai... 10 years with me around the world, still strong and looking good!
What’s your idea of happiness?
It is complicated. My idea of happiness is not the attempt of creating a perfect environment, where I can live chilled and relaxed..... that would be utopia for me at this moment. My idea of happiness is my capability of finding happiness and joy in every little thing that happens in my day, and not compulsory to me. Happiness is the smiley face of Emma, the 70 year old owner of the bar under my apartment, that I see every morning on my way to work. But happiness is even to see one of my employees who managed to finish pay the loan on his home, or one of his kids graduated. Or one supplier had a bad day and a cup of coffee and couple of jokes later there is a smile on his face. The search for happiness in everything and everyone makes happiness possible.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years, what’s your vision for the future?
Business wise, I am working on expanding Pierluigi Restaurant and Hotel de Ricci overseas, and it would be a great adventure but at the same time a natural step for these two successful ideas. Personally, lose some weight (not easy working in a restaurant), build a family with my beloved Christina and keep on working as hard as I can.
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