New Wenceslas Square eatery combines old elegance with contemporary décor
Off an unassuming Wenceslas Square passageway, up a marble-lined staircase, sits a new pizza parlor with an emphasis on stylish design in its décor and food.
“It’s a modern design,” says Jan Kubišta, the manager of Pizza Marzano. “But it’s keeping the style of the building.”
Pizza Marzano is part of a chain of Italian restaurants throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Begun by the Pizza Express chain founded in England in 1965, there are now more than 50 restaurants. A common design theme is seen throughout them all.
“Always there are the marble tables, tile and wood floors, specially designed chairs, lots of stainless steel and fresh flowers in blue vases,” explains Kubišta.
The Prague location’s building dates to around 1917, when it was the largest café in the city. When Pizza Marzano acquired it, the last resident had been a bank. Reconstruction began in April 2006, and the restaurant opened in October. The building’s historic elements are what sets this location apart from the pizza chain’s other restaurants around Europe.
“Unique here are the windows, which are part of the former construction,” Kubišta says. “And the view is very unique.”
As the restaurant is situated at the top of Wenceslas Square, guests have a lovely view of the bustle down below against the backdrop of the stately National Museum.
Architect Petr Šindelář was charged with taking the Pizza Marzano concept and making it work for this building. He did that by combining sleek, contemporary furnishings with classic colors.
While the curved stairway complete with brass banister may have been appropriate for a bank or the building’s previous tenants, it doesn’t work well for a restaurant.
“It’s a disadvantage, because people want to see the restaurant, see people inside,” Kubišta explains. “So we’ve tried to recreate it in the entry.”
Walking in from the passage, you’re met with a wall-size menu, as well as a small table set with dinnerware and wine glasses. Through the window, facing the street, there’s a large, flat-screen television that shows off the inside of the restaurant, a tactic to encourage hungry passers-by to come up for a bite to eat.
Once upstairs, a simple, clean feeling fills the large open space. Classic colors of red, black and white dominate. Black and stainless steel for the specially designed chairs coupled with black marble tables, white-tile flooring and the red paint on the walls make for a room that is pleasing to the eye and hopefully comfortable on the stomach.
The bar is directly in front of the entry, and it extends in an L-shape. A large pizza oven, capable of baking 27 pies at once, covers most of the back wall of the food preparation area, which is decorated with red tiles. Decorations are simple — bunches of garlic, jars filled with dried pasta and pots of fresh herbs. A few abstract paintings, heavy on the red, line the walls, and live plants are scattered throughout. The rest of the space is given over to seating. Again the simplicity is apparent: Round and square tables are decorated with blue vases. Benches are limited to two back corners. The restaurant has seats for 180, plus an additional 55 on two back terraces. Off the back of the restaurant, overlooking the inside of the passageway, are two spaces that, come spring, will be open for dining and people watching.
Keeping the building’s original floor-to-ceiling windows was a smart move. When they are open during warmer weather, the dining area will no doubt have the look and feel of an outdoor terrace. There’s also a small balcony directly overlooking the square. The raised seating area along the windows and distressed wooden flooring here makes for a homey change in atmosphere from the bright white tiles. A basic wooden railing runs along this stepped-up area.
The front of the bar is white during the day, but hides blue lighting that gives the room a warm glow in the evenings. Blue lighting above and below the windows adds to the atmosphere and makes up for the loss of light at night. The bar itself is fairly utilitarian, but artistically arranged wine and liquor glasses show that, even in “working” areas, the staff hasn’t neglected to make them attractive.
“We want people to have a feeling of comfort and elegance; we aren’t an expensive restaurant, but we serve in an elegant style,” says Kubišta. “Pizza Marzano’s motto is to serve the world with style.”