Ciao, Cipriani Miami

Massimo Listri

Architect and designer Michele Bonan dishes on his latest project.

Italian architect and interior designer Michele Bonan has a portfolio that stretches from the storied J.K. Place hotel in Florence to a restaurant at the Hôtel de Vendôme in Paris to a rug collection for Dedar, but the name he may be most closely associated with is Cipriani, the iconic Italian restaurant known for pampering service and beautifully executed Italian fare (with sky-high prices to match). Having designed Cipriani restaurants in London and Monte Carlo, Bonan just finished Cipriani Downtown Miami. We spoke with him about his creative inspiration, the South Beach crowd—and what he loves (and hates) about Miami.

Q: You’ve designed spaces for Cipriani in Europe and the Middle East but not America. What makes the Miami location special?

A: Well, before I started the project, I told Giuseppe, Ignazio and Maggio [Cipriani, the owners] that I needed to see the space. I got here and loved it—there’s beautiful light and high ceilings, but I immediately asked, “Why did you put the restaurant downtown?”

Q: Why was that the first question?

A: Downtown is more of a business location, and restaurants often prefer to be in South Beach, where most of the out-of-town foot traffic is.

Q: So it’s not a typical South Beach crowd.

A: Not at all—and that’s why it’s brilliant. The guests are businessmen, gentlemen, artists and the most beautiful women! The last time I came by to check on the project, I saw people who were in for dinner and stayed until the restaurant closed. It’s the real Miami.

Q: How did you design the location differently?

A: I wanted to make the whole thing modern. You know that Cipriani also owns Harry’s Bar in Venice, right?

Q: Of course!

A: I channeled that decor, making the mahogany-colored walls look like Harry’s. It’s Venice in Miami. But the main thing I did change was the chairs—I made them white with blue trim, which felt sexier, more contemporary.

Q: What’s your favorite table?

A: I’ve tried them all, obviously. If you’re alone, sit next to the bar and chat with strangers or the bartender. If you’re on a date, get the table in the corner for privacy.

Q: Miami is a very romantic place for a date.

A: You know, Miami feels special—there’s youth and energy. The temperature is fantastic. Well, from September to April. In August it rains; it’s not so perfect then. I don’t like the rain anywhere but in Venice, where it’s even more beautiful.

Q: Where else do you like to go in Miami?

A: I also designed Casa Tua [1700 James Ave.; 305-673-0973;], and I love the restaurant because it’s so different. There’s low lighting, flowers and candles, which you will never see at Cipriani! But that’s the beauty of Miami—you can have it all. At 465 Brickell Ave.; 786-329-4090;