August 11, 2021

India Mahdavi Revives the Vintage 1950s Restaurant of Racing-Car Brand Ferrari

Mahdavi designed exclusive dining armchairs for the restaurant, and lacquered them racing red. Photography by Danilo Scarpati.

Interior Design Hall of Fame member India Mahdavi is known for her playful irreverence with color. One could argue that with her Sketch restaurant she changed the way people thought about pink. For her most recent foray into hospitality, the Paris-based design multihyphenate turned her hand to the trattoria of luxury sports car manufacturer Ferrari. The history of Ristorante Cavallino, opposite the Ferrari factory in Maranello, Italy, goes like this: In 1942, Enzo Ferrari turned a small farmhouse into a canteen for employees; later, in 1950, it opened to the public as an eatery, the Cavallino. Now, post Covid lockdown, it has reopened under the auspices of renowned restaurateur Massimo Bottura (chef at Osteria Francescana, dubbed by some as the world’s best restaurant).

A column in the dining room of Ristorante Cavallino is covered in a pixelated version of Ferrari’s prancing horse symbol. Photography by Danilo Scarpati.

Mahdavi twists the codes and conventions of traditional roadside Italian trattorias. The ex-farmhouse’s new red facade is a nod to the rosso corsa or racing red of Ferrari’s Formula One vehicles. Inside, an enfilade of rooms is connected via a series of rhythmic arches that carve the space into symmetrical sections. Flooring is terracotta tiles, alternating between marbled, chianti-colored tiles and ivory tiles in a checkerboard pattern like a well-ironed tablecloth. Canary-yellow leather benches—with graphically charged circular backrests affixed to the wall—showcase Mahdavi’s chromatic skill while also referencing the brand’s characteristic red and yellow hues. Elsewhere, Mahdavi modernized the Cavallino symbol, a prancing horse, by enlarging and pixelating the motif. It’s applied to a multitude of surfaces—on perforated metal at the entry gate, glass mosaic on walls, wallpaper, and the Burano lace edging net curtains. The garden, designed with Milan landscape architect Marco Bay, has outdoor dining in the shade of a pergola whose repeating arches reflect the shapes of the building’s windows. Back inside, one may be enticed by the poplar-paneled Enzo Room, a private lounge that was once the storied den where founder Enzo Ferrari sat in front of the fireplace, avidly watching Grand Prix after Grand Prix.

Select walls are covered in vintage Ferrari memorabilia. Photography by Danilo Scarpati.
Flooring is glazed terracotta tile in a checkerboard pattern reminiscent of a traditional Italian tablecloth. Photography by Danilo Scarpati.
Custom chairs and tables form outdoor seating vignettes under the pergola. Photography by Danilo Scarpati.
Ferrari’s Cavallino symbol adorns even the fine china. Photography by Danilo Scarpati.

Read next: Sybarite Designs the First Ferrari Retail Experience in Maranello, Italy

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