How do you create a flower-centric restaurant that doesn’t feel like a bridal shower? If you’re Alessandra and Mario De Benedetti, you ask your good friend, the artist and writer Leanne Shapton, to paint your walls with a geometric watercolor mural, and you ask Elizabeth Roberts, the architect known for her light-filled, thoughtfully reworked Brooklyn brownstones, to design the rest. The result is a high-ceilinged oasis on 26th Street in Manhattan, a stone’s throw from the flower district, bedecked in pale wood and Patricia Urquiola chairs imported from Italy. The space, Il Fiorista, which opened yesterday, doesn’t so much look like a bouquet of flowers — rather, it offers the calming, rapturous effect of smelling one.
This is the couple’s first restaurant project: Before they moved from Milan to New York two years ago, he worked in private equity, and she was a law professor. But when Alessandra developed an obsession with learning about flowers, and when the couple realized that spending some time in another country might offer a nice change for their family, an idea was born — and then one idea quickly became dozens.