Past, Present and Future: Bacino Goes 70s Modern Italian

Situated in Flannels flagship store in Liverpool, Bacino is a modern Italian restaurant that's giving us a look into the future of what retail shopping could become. And, we love it.
Past, Present and Future: Bacino Goes 70s Modern Italian

Flannels recently opened their new flagship store in Clayton Square, Liverpool, taking over 4 floors of what used to be an Owen Owen department store in the 1920s. Originally, the building was designed to become a luxury hotel and instead, it became home to everything interiors and fashion. Back then, it was considered ‘one of the best stores in town’ and arguably, Flannels is continuing on that legacy.

Now, stepping into Flannels is a commitment; and it’s one that we’re willing to make. Let’s face it, even if you have one item on your list—hours will pass after mooching around the shimmering beauty counters, smelling every note in the fragrances and having at least 10 new favourites, and of course the four floors of designer and boutique luxury clothes, shoes, and accessories. And then you realise, you could do with some food.

You can imagine partnering with a luxury retail store as a restaurant group requires more than collaboration. It requires a shared set of values and appreciation for beautiful design that makes you feel good by simply looking at it, wearing it, or being in it. Zanna is renowned for its expertise in elevating casual dining with restaurants in Manchester, Cheshire, Leicester and now, Liverpool. They’re the perfect partner to bring Flannels vision in creating a dynamic restaurant that ticks all the boxes for work, leisure and play—and that, they did.

Bacino is the newly-opened Italian restaurant situated on the ground floor of Flannels, with show-stopping menus for brunch, Cicchetti, pizza and drinks. To conceptualise, design and make the space a reality, Zanna partnered with the Manchester-based interior design studio Youth, who have received more than an award or two for their work. We had the opportunity to speak with Ben, Creative Director at Zanna and Ollie, Co-founder at Youth to find out more about the design process and to take a look behind the scene.

this is a look inside Bacino, Liverpool, showing the red velvet sofa and italian style lamps this is the aisle view inside Bacino Liverpool, showing the various dining table and chairs

“It’s a little unusual that we sit within the retail environment, it’s not your conventional setting but feels somehow totally natural” shares Ben as he begins to tell us about Bacino.“we’re a bit of escapism from shopping when you’re looking to take a break and a destination of its own.” As we walked around, we were mesmerised by the restaurant’s interiors: wavy lines, vibrant colours, and cool aesthetics. From the walnut and other joinery details, there are beautiful nods throughout that scream 70s, and yet the modern elements balance the past, present and even the future out seamlessly. “You’ll notice the space is heavily textured and detailed,” says Ollie. “This happened gradually as we worked through the concept and leaned towards creating a juxtaposition between rough and super glossy materiality.”

While the exterior of the building represents a historic period of time, their brief was to create an escape from the business—and that they did. “There’s history to this building, and naturally as designers, we would look to preserve what we can. This is something that we’ve done in other spaces. Whereas for Bacino, it was different. Our landscape was what surrounded us; brilliant, modern, and contemporary interiors, white walls, and black track fixtures.”

When developing the concept for the restaurant, they had always known they wanted to do a spin on modern Italian, while doing that in a more contemporary way. “It originally started this heritage Italian detailing with open archways and curvature to the back bar. It later grew into the 70s influence,” shares Ollie. “For this, it wasn’t about buying antique furniture—we didn’t want it to get chintzy and so all the pieces are made bespoke. The key thing for us is that we wanted the space to be quite playful and leaning into the Italian heritage detailing can be repetitive. Whereas, the pastel pink tones, baby blues, teals and greens all make it feel quite playful.”

While you’re sat there on the rich red sofa looking out onto the bar with the marbled worktop, baby blue paints and velvety blue stools, flicking through the cocktail menu and thinking about what next to drink, you’d be forgiven if you felt like you were on a movie set. Although he had nothing to do with the original concept, the space feels so familiar, so Wes Anderson. “We had been on the build for 8 weeks at this point and it was coming together quite quickly. It was during one of the photoshoots, it began to feel accidental Wes Anderson with the symmetry, the colours, the canter lever chairs and chrome detailing.”

these are the quirky dining chairs in Bacino, Liverpool this is the dining table and metalic chairs in Bacino, Liverpool

With Bacino’s surroundings being a bright retail space, the team had to pay extra attention to the lighting to create an ambience inside that you’d expect in a restaurant. “Light was a big challenge for us and there were two reasons for it: the surrounding area and the operational side of things,” shares Ollie. ”From a design side, our task was to work with a space that is daytime only, very bright, and open plan. At the same time, we wanted to create a space that was fresh and welcoming so people can see it and know it was there. This can be difficult to work with when you have the backdrop of seven or eight brands behind you.”

Whether it’s inside your home, an office block or a restaurant getting the ambience right is can make or break the general feeling of a place. The challenge for this team was trying to control the ambience at certain times of the day. “We had no natural light to work with. So, we had to think about ways to set the mood of it being dinner when actually, the shop floor stays the same brightness all day long,” says Ollie. “Usually, you can set that mood easily with lighting and get the ambience you’re looking for. You don’t get that transition that you would normally get in a restaurant from night and day, but I think it worked out quite well in the end.”

It can easily be seen as though lighting just is when you visit restaurants and cafes. And yet, good lighting is usually the secret pillar that holds up the energy of the room. Without careful consideration of what light goes where and in what, a space can feel flat. Now, you can imagine we were overjoyed when we looked up to discover a stunning sputnik light fixture brightening up the entire space. “All of the lighting is bespoke and for the designs, we took reference from heritage light fixtures and even brasseries had a certain influence. But then, we wanted to add a contemporary spin by layering it up.”

For Bacino, there are three levels of lighting. There’s low-level lighting for warmer tones, such as table lights and soft furnishing lights followed by wall lights for colder tones. “The reason for this is because they were the first thing that integrated with the external lighting,” Ollie shares, “and they needed to be very similar in temperatures.” Together they created this grading lighting, which then set the scene for the ceiling lights. “We wanted them to be warmer to create this sandwich of tones and gradient of lighting so that whenever a customer looked up into the store, you get that contrasting lights in the space that make you feel warm.”

this is a shot of the breakfast pancakes and juice on the Bacino menu in Liverpool this is a look inside Bacino, Liverpool showing the larger dining tables and red velvet sofa

When asked about how the menu influenced the interiors or vice versa, Ben describes how the modern Italian concept was essential throughout. “It’s something we ran with together, and the brief stayed the same for them both: modern and playful Italian.” The result? A delicious and lively experience. “The menu is based around being impulsive,” shares Ben, “you’re taking a break from shopping and grabbing a bite. That said, dining on Cicchetti lends itself to being something that isn’t too big or over-indulgent.” It’s the perfect concept for any occasion.

Whether you’re in Liverpool for the weekend or nipping into town after work to scout out your birthday outfit, the menu has something for everyone and for any time of day. While Ben picked out several favourites including the eggs royale with keta caviar, baked king prawns, Tuscan chicken pappardelle and tiramisu, on our visit we couldn’t resist the blueberry and ricotta pancakes. Soaked with organic maple syrup and smoothened off with whipped mascarpone. No regrets—it was as delicious as it looked.

This is the type of place that could easily become the go-to spot in Liverpool—and most likely already is. With it being in the heart of the city centre and inside a luxury retail store, that you could easily spend hours browsing around, its a destination in and of itself. We’ve been in various stores before that have a cafe tucked in the corner or a coffee bar by the entrance, and while they are nice they can often lack a sense of character or individuality; being dominated by the retail store that they’re in. Yet, Bacino has achieved something that very few have: a state of independence.

*Disclaimer: Bacino kindly gifted us a lunch to support this review of their Liverpool restaurant.

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