In the outskirts of Rome, an old wool mill stands out boldly against the capital’s blue sky. Looking at it, you’d think it was a factory abandoned years ago. And, in fact, it did close down in the 1920s. But today it’s buzzing with life again, as Lanificio, a hotspot for a night out in Rome, thanks to its restaurant, disco, rooftop urban vegetable garden, and art shows.
When you walk into the building, you are confronted with a half-open metal door. On the other side, the friendly staff welcomes you with a smile and invites to walk through into the restaurant. As you step inside, you are amazed by the light that filters through the glass panels and floods the space. Everything you see harks back to a different era. You feel like a child again, visiting your grandparents house and discovering new and exciting things to play with. Here, there are old bicycles, shop signs for businesses that closed years ago, antique picture frames, and period lamps surrounding the restaurant tables. Not only that: everything you see is on sale.
From outside, the green of the Valle dell’ Aniene nature reserve projects its subtleties of color along the wooden tables and the chairs, that seem remind you of childhood. You realize that you’ve entered a kind of wonderland, where the past meets the present. You peruse the menu, and note that traditional Italian cuisine has undergone a process of reinvention, experimentation, and revival. Once again, the years are rolled back and dishes you thought you knew suddenly turn out to be different, like the tiramisu, or the gnocchi with saffron, squid ink, and crushed pistachios. Your curiosity is stirred when you see “abstraction” on the menu. In this dish, traditional ingredients are deconstructed and reunited in ravioli, then served with a sauce made from blue potatoes from the Orient. Each and every dish is unique, and can be found nowhere else in the world but here. Each offers refined flavors and reflects the colors and scents of the season.
The Officina (Workshop) boasts a secret space in which you can admire objects from the past. It can only be reached by a narrow staircase and through a hinged bookcase. It is a small underground space, packed with history and faded photographs. You take a seat on one of the wobbly sofas and check out the contents of the late-19th-century dresser. Everything here screams of art, from the tin puppets to the metal-and-glass tables.
It’s evening and as usual, two floors above, multicolored lights filter from the 159, accompanied by loud rhythmic music, but Lanificio 159 is much more than a simple disco. Every event is a voyage of discovery, where musicians improvise with drum machines, synthesizers, and more traditional instruments.
When you head up to another floor, and you find yourself immersed in an urban jungle, where small, enchanting lights remind you of the circus. Here, you are surrounded by plants, lights, colors, and music. A little further on, you find a small urban vegetable garden, just displaying its first shoots.
At the piano bar, you can order a cocktail, a glass of wine, or even a sandwich. You take a seat on the sofa in the midst of tropical palms, creepers, and the murmur of voices. When you look up, and you see the beautiful night sky is dotted with stars. This is Lanificio, a restaurant, an urban vegetable garden, and a disco. But, it’s also a place to enjoy the pleasures of the past with the innovations of the future.