Osteria Betulla / DA office
Osteria Betulla / DA office
Photographs: Sergei Melnikov
Anna Lvovskaia, Boris Lvovskiy, Fedor Goreglyad, Maria Romanova, Julia Kubitskaya
Text description provided by the architects. Osteria ‘Betulla’ is the second project of talented chef Arslan Berdiev, founder of the sensational restaurant Birch. “Birch” and “Betulla” are both translated into Russian as “a birch”. But while ‘Birch’ is based on pan-European culinary traditions, ‘Betulla’ focuses on Italian cuisine. The concept of osteria Betulla is based on simple Italian cuisine in its original version with an emphasis on the high quality of the products. An important characteristic of all of Arslan’s projects is the perfectionism and the unexpected service of the dishes, surprisingly for the guests, which is reflected in the kitchen of the osteria.
From the start, we oriented ourselves to the image of an “Italian dining room”, but in a very minimalist and uncluttered way. We knew how sacred the restaurant team felt about their work, so we wanted to translate that feeling into a visual image. This is how we came up with the idea of a certain “food temple” – a place resembling a clean, minimalist European chapel flooded with light.
At the same time, we wanted not only to recreate a classic Italian interior, but to bring the modern spirit of Italy to St. Petersburg, using traditional colors, shapes and materials. In working on this project, we used the architectural dramaturgy characteristic of traditional churches. Guests enter the space through a recessed, shaded, tapered entrance hall. They enter the first small, dimly lit room, and further – into the second room flooded with light. This way, guests move smoothly from shade to light.
We widened all the window openings in the hall (which is in the basement, below ground level) and lowered them to seating level, so that the hall is better exposed to light and not seen. like an underground vault. We have placed elements referring to the Catholic aesthetic practically everywhere. The centerpiece of the first room is the metaphorical altar – a large table where the pasta chef works. All the tables are turned towards him, which creates an effect of theatrical performance and allows diners to witness the mystery of pasta making.
The zest of the second hall is the pews in the center. At the same time, accents are made on the olive tree and the three kiots (a kiot is a niche traditionally housing icons of saints). Since Italian cuisine has its own holy trinity – wine, olive oil and thyme – we have placed them in niches. Water fountains, common in Italian cities, took the form of a wine cooler in the first hall and a sink in the toilet area. Italy being famous for its wines, we couldn’t do without the wine cellar which is efficiently positioned in the space under the stairs. Thanks to the play of light colors and the mirrors on the walls, we were able to visually smooth out the geometry of the cellar.
In addition to introducing Italian flair, one of the main goals was to transform the existing dark space in the basement into a well-lit, airy space that would not oppress the visitor. The task seemed very difficult, if not impossible at one point. The main architectural device in working with interior space was the vaulted ceiling. Not only does it refer to the architecture of the church, but erases the border between the ceiling and the walls, while maintaining the height of the room as much as possible. At the same time, the dome-shaped ceiling hides a large number of engineering networks. By applying the divergence of the window pillars, we were able to let as much light as possible into the hall, making it more airy. This technique is traditionally used in churches.
We wanted to create a very clean and minimalist look, using expressive media as little as possible. This is why we only used three basic materials: travertine, which is often found in the paving of Italian streets, wood for furniture and wall panels, and light-colored plaster as the main material. for the walls. All of this has helped us to convey the image of Italy. The layout of the entrance area was a separate project. We were able to find an interesting shape and texture. It is a kind of gaze made from a single block of rock, which refers to the first caves of hermit monks and to rock churches. One notable feature, much loved by all guests, is a curved mirror recessed deep into the supporting wall. It is our silent hostess who welcomes you and accompanies you.
Thanks to the meticulous approach to design, great attention to detail and thoughtful sections of the space, we were able to realize the original idea and create a minimalist Italian ‘food temple’ where you can always witness the mystery of pasta making. and bring her warmth home.