In a citrus grove saved from neglect, Il Giardino di Lipari was born a few years ago, conceived by the artist Luca Cutrufelli. This year cocktail bars and bistros try to bring the world to the island, in the summer when travelling is difficult.

The recovery of an old citrus grove

Il Giardino di Lipari appears to those who stroll through the alleys of the historic center of the Aeolian village precisely for what it is: a green oasis torn from neglect, in a place that once housed a citrus grove and today welcomes guests looking to relax in the shade of a tangerine or lemon tree, who want to stop for lunch or enjoy good music on a summer evening. Credit for this goes to Luca Cutrufelli, a Sicilian artist with a passion for f&b hospitality, who a few years ago fell in love at first sight with this Aeolian corner of the world, when it was still covered in brambles and in abandonment. After patient recovery work, which has preserved the bond with the old citrus grove, while creating the necessary structures to serve dishes and drinks – Il Giardino di Lipari was born, which is a cocktail bar, a relaxed bistro for lunch and busy evening meeting place, with music and DJ sets that set the pace during dinner and after dinner, when the colourful deck chairs that enliven the courtyard are filled with people. Especially in a tourist resort like Lipari, summer 2020 will be different, but no less interesting.

Summer at Il Giardino di Lipari

The stakes have been raised, and the Garden has chosen to rethink its team and diversify the offer to meet different needs. In August, for example, a Healthy Brunch program will begin, for morning outdoor pilates lessons followed by a healthy brunch spread that’s however generous in flavour; and soon a picnic basket take-out service will also be available, ideal for those who plan to go out and about by boat. The evolution, however, lies above all in the talent of the people selected to strengthen the team. A few weeks ago, Raimondo Di Cataldo, a Roman cook who was already in the brigade at Imago restaurant under Francesco Apreda at the helm of the kitchen many years ago (2007-2010), in the period when the Roman restaurant was beginning to be in the limelight.

Il Giardino di Lipari. The cuisine of the bistro

Influenced by experience matured around the world, in Lipari the chef brings a particular sensitivity for treating ingredients, which on the island means first of all the added value of super fresh fish, and wild herbs such as nepitella (catmint), or capers that grow luxuriantly, without however forgoing more daring fusions. The proposal of the bistro, therefore, remains simple, and well defined in taste: ricotta del pastore di Vulcano with vegetable tempura, marinated anchovies with sautéed escarole and burrata, Gragnano pasta with octopus and ginger ragout, fried shrimp and squid in chickpea flour and semolina, roasted octopus on island purple potato mash (but those who prefer can opt for an octopus poké with grapefruit mayo). And a Sicilian gelato made with Malvasia wine, nuts, raisins and citrus peel to finish.

Il Giardino di Lipari. The cocktail bar

The cocktail list, on the other hand, aims to travel the world: the two young bartenders behind the counter use wild herbs and spices – from juniper to gentian, to quassio – to play with creative drinks (like the Rosalia, inspired by Palermo’s patron saint and her crown of roses), but also have a “World” section that ranges from Mexican Michelada to Pisco sour, to Indian Punch, preferably paired with a handful of fried capers and panelle, chickpea fritters, for the aperitif.

The goal of summer 2020, in fact, will be “to bring the world to the Garden, since at the moment the world is less accessible”, explained Cutrufelli. Not surprisingly, the colourful uniforms of the staff are designed by Giocherenda, a social enterprise born in Palermo to give a voice (and a job) to young people arriving in the city from Guinea, Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Morocco, who fled in search of a better future, and which today is expressed with creativity. Il Giardino di Lipari is open, all you have to do is walk in the beautiful stone arch, beyond which the old citrus grove is revealed.