The last time Piero Gesualdi dipped his toes into the world of Melbourne hospitality it was with the game-changing Rosati. The cavernous restaurant-café he opened on Flinders Lane in the 1980s with Ronnie Di Stasio not only redefined the concept of Melbourne Italian dining, but was also instrumental in bringing about the renaissance of the city's laneways.
Now the influential designer and entrepreneur is transforming a warehouse-sized former tile showroom on Fitzroy's Brunswick Street into an emporium-design wonderland/gallery/apericena bar/café. It'll be called Mondopiero, "the world of Piero".
"I like to think of this as my home, my bar that I am inviting people into, and so I like to play it by ear about what I'm going to stock," says Gesualdi. "I don't know how it will pan out. I have to see the way that people use it."
It has an eclectic range of uniformly covetable kitchenware, furniture, light fittings, bespoke shelving systems, taxidermy (some of it courtesy of artist Julia de Ville), body products, sound systems, bicycles, eyewear, footwear and antiques, while the food and drink side of the equation - a bar at the front and a café at the back - is yet to be installed, so explaining what Mondopiero is can get a little complicated.
The best explanation is probably that there's a little something for design freaks of every stripe, be it painfully hip timber, ceramic and metal cookware from the Italian company KnIndustrie, cooking knives from Coltellerie Berti, Japanese glassware from Cibi or pewter-edged ceramic tableware from Cosi Tabellini. And despite the gallery-esque feel of the place, it's definitely a shop with everything for sale, from the enormous taxidermy giraffe head and neck and jewellery bedecked (stuffed) fluffy Arctic fox to black metal fixtures and fittings that can all be made to order.
The bar at the front of Mondopiero has its bar shelves - built into a giant framed mirror that appears to lean against the wall - already installed, and is currently waiting on a green light from liquor licensing.
Gesualdi believes the bar when it opens, will be the first in Melbourne to offer apericena. Api-what? A portmanteau of "aperitivo" and "cena", or dinner, it's a nuanced version of aperitivo where the food leans more towards a light dinner than predinner snacks and in Italy is typically gratis. Gesualdi hopes to follow the tradition here, but will wait and see whether locals will be able to enjoy free food in the spirit and traditions in which it's offered.
"The bar will be integral to the whole complex," he says. "So we have to make sure we get it right."
Mondopiero, 28 Brunswick St, Fitzroy, Vic, (03) 9417 7047. Open Daily 11am-8pm.