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With Effortless Elegance: Cipriani

They invented Bellini and Carpaccio and entertained celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin and Ernest Hemingway: The secret of the Cipriani dynasty is intangible, but you can feel it. And although it's difficult to patent this spirit, no one has managed to copy the legend in the company's 90-year history.

December 6, 2023

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Arrigo Cipriani is an elegant gentleman, but also someone who doesn't mince his words. As the boss of the legendary Harry's Bar in Venice, the 91-year-old likes to lash out: against the French tire flicker, whose restaurant guide has destroyed the gastronomic scene; against politics, which could do more for Venice; and against tourism, which is destroying the city. However, when it comes to the legacy of his father Giuseppe Cipriani - the bar where Bellini and Carpaccio were invented and where Charlie Chaplin, Woody Allen, Greta Garbo, Tom Cruise and Ernest Hemingway sat - the disgruntled signore becomes a softie. Because the world's still perfect in Harry's Bar. Here, Cipriani is happy to sign one of his books or get carried away with a chat. Occasionally, he even serves Carpaccio or Bellinis himself. He doesn't want to change anything here; the bar should remain as his father once conceived it.

A success story


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Giuseppe Cipriani was always resourceful. In 1948, he created the Bellini (on the occasion of an exhibition of the Italian Renaissance painter Giovanni Bellini); 15 years later came the Carpaccio, thinly sliced raw fillet of beef - also named after a painter, but invented for regular customer Contessa Amalia Nani Mocenigo. Harry's Bar, named after its financial backer Harry Pickering, quickly became world-famous. Lines such as: Then he pulled open the door of Harry's Bar and was inside, and once again he had made it and was home. Hemingway's Across the River and into the Woods helped to establish the legendary status of the inconspicuous bar near St. Mark's Square. 

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In 2001, the Italian Ministry of Culture ennobled the bar and its original 1930s interior as a national landmark. Another reason why nothing will change here any time soon. Except for the prices, of course, which have always been astronomical.

Rapid expansion

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Arrigo (the Italian version of the name Harry) Cipriani has now largely handed over the business to his own son, Giuseppe II. More than 20 restaurants and bars worldwide are now part of the Cipriani family empire, as are five hotels, affectionately known as Casas. The first, now the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, is no longer part of the Cipriani Group, although it still bears their name. Giuseppe II isn't one to flinch; the gastronomy gene is in his blood, as is speed. Now 58 years old, he was a car racing driver before joining the family business. This was at a time when the empire was not only world-famous, but also enjoyed a dubious reputation. There was talk of tax fraud and contacts with organized crime.

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But the company seems to have fully recovered from this. Today, two iconic hotels in Milan and New York complement the portfolio, which includes bars and restaurants as well as specialties such as bottled Bellinis, ice cream stores, cafés and even kitchen utensils. The hotels are actually private clubs with outstanding rooms and suites: Anyone who wants to stay here is a temporary member. Two further outlets are currently under construction, in Punta del Este (Uruguay) and in Miami, where residences are also available for purchase. The fourth generation is already ensuring that the family empire continues: Arrigo's grandsons Ignazio and Maggio are the founders of Mr. C Hotels with properties in Beverly Hills, Miami and Dubai.

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This article appeared in the Falstaff TRAVEL issue Fall 2023.

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