San Lorenzo is one of Rome’s trendiest neighbourhoods. In terms of archaeology, like the rest of the Italian capital, there are things to see. An archway built in 5BC. Stretches of the city walls. It was also where Pier Polo Pasolini and Alberto Moravia used to meet up and chat. But it is the proximity of Sapienza, Rome’s most important university, that has turned this old industrial quartiere into a buzzing hub for food, drink and fun. At night, that is.
Among the venues here, one of the most interesting is Pastificio San Lorenzo. A pastificio is basically a pasta factory. They’re common across Italy, but changing consumer habits — people began to do their shopping in supermarkets and large stores — saw many of these places closed for decades. In turn, this provided an opportunity for 21st century hipsters to acquire the sites, spurred on by back-to-roots and local food movements.
Pastificio San Lorenzo is a grill. Among the dishes on offer you’ll find meat, fish, starters… And, of course, pasta. According to the Michelin Guide, the place has “an international feel” and “the food doesn’t disappoint with its intriguing blend of regional flavours and modern influences.” The chef here is Stefano Patelli, who is originally from Rome although his mother is Austrian. He worked with the former chef here, Fabio Pecelli, one of those young professionals that food experts describe as “audacious” and “an emerging talent.”
The restaurant itself emerged as a spin off of an artistic initiative, the Fondazione Pastificio Cecere, set up in 2004. It is located in the same pasta factory, which was built in 1905 and remained active until after World War II. In the 1970s various artists started to move in, occupying the previously abandoned building.
These were the beginnings of the so-called San Lorenzo Group, a collective of contemporary artists who lived and worked in the building. It was made up of figures such as Bruno Ceccobelli, Gianni Dessì, Giuseppe Gallo, Nunzio Pizzi Cannella and Marco Tirelli, all of whom were linked to Arte Povera, an Italian movement characterised by the use of decomposable, non-industrial materials which allow for an artwork to transform as it deteriorates.
Making the most of this cultural and emotional heritage, Fondazione Pastificio Cecere put a whole range of services and activities in place. One of the most important, aside from workshops and courses in fashion, communications and art, is the residency programme for young artists living in Italy. Applications are invited each year and the chosen artists are awarded a six-month residency at Pastificio Cecere, including accommodation and studio space.
The objective is to “provide a meeting place for different forms of expression, ideas and practice so that these young artists can move forward in developing their poetic and artistic language.” Since 2011, there is also a programme for curators, in which the candidate selected by the foundation puts forward an annual cultural programme incorporating written texts, monographs and exhibitions.
In the end, Pastificio Cecere itself is a work of art and it shares a key characteristic with the Arte Povera that brought the place to fame. From factory to abandoned building, to bohemian artistic residence, to contemporary cultural centre and restaurant. The artwork, like the pastificio and everything it houses, transforms with the pass of time.
Cover Photo: Pastificio Cerere, the building. Studio Ottavio Celestino