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A Door to Europe, in Brooklyn

Porta, a homeware shop in New York City, offers design-forward objects with Old World charm.

A photograph of The Palio Collection Shop at Porta



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I COME FROM an Italian-American family, which means I’ve been training my whole life to host. I can pop open tinned fish and chill wine faster than you can say, “We’re in the neighborhood.” I also keep a shelf in my home that I call “the Porta shelf,” stocked with entertainment-worthy homeware, such as handblown glass vases, and named for the European tableware and home furnishing shop in Brooklyn.

The word “porta” means “door” in Italian, and the shop is indeed an entry point to every corner of Europe. Whenever I’m in the borough’s Cobble Hill neighborhood, I explore Porta’s collections of plates from Portugal, glassware from the south of France, linens from Italy, and candelabras from Spain. The shop’s owners, Alice Russotti and Francesca del Balzo, are lifelong friends who grew up in London enjoying the ease of European gatherings. When they moved to Brooklyn and had young families, they wanted to fill their homes with the everyday pieces that defined their childhoods, items with character that weren’t too precious. Unable to find such homeware in New York, they decided to source it themselves.



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Porta is a manifestation of its owners’ approach to hosting; It’s welcoming, generous, and cozy. The shop has enough tableware for a 40-person gathering but its curation ensures you won’t be overwhelmed. “The things that we love have stories or makers behind them,” Russotti explains, “and they’re not mass-made. They have whimsy and color and expression and history — a contemporary sensibility but a technique or a tradition to them that can tie back.” She knows these artisans personally, and I watched as she scanned the shop, stopping at each piece.

On a typical sourcing trip, Russotti and del Balzo wake up at 5 a.m. to drive three hours to meet an artisan recommended by a trusted friend, just to ask, “Can we sell some of your things in the United States?” Here are several gorgeously crafted, thoughtfully sourced items they've found.

Shop at Porta

The Palio Collection

This collection celebrates the Palio, a 17-team horse race and cultural event that happens twice a year in Siena, Italy, dating back to the Middle Ages. Each ceramic piece displays an animal that represents one of the Palio teams. Del Balzo and Russotti have a long history with these plates. Del Balzo’s parents bought a set when they were on their honeymoon, and she remembers arguing with her siblings as a child over the animal plates. Russotti attended the Palio at a young age with her family and her brother’s godfather, who is in the Tartuca Contrada, one of the Palio teams. Russotti recalls the experience as “the most extraordinary thing you’ll ever see.”

Shop at Porta

Summerill & Bishop Striped Tablecloths and Napkins

Summerill & Bishop has been creating designer tablecloths for over two decades. Established by June Summerill and Bernadette Bishop, this London-based brand designs various items, but its main focus is on linens. The company has a fabulous shop tucked away in a leafy corner of London’s Holland Park that del Balzo used to visit growing up. Russotti shared, “It’s exactly that kind of shop that was an inspiration for Porta, in that it was a neighborhood shop that was started by two women who used to go around the world and find things to bring people around the table.” SHOP NOW

Shop at Porta

Gemma Jugs

Russotti and del Balzo have offered these handblown jugs — created in a workshop in the south of France — since Porta’s beginning. Their vibrant colors add personality to any table, and they function beautifully as either elevated beverage vessels or unexpected vases. SHOP NOW

Shop at Porta

The Palma Collection

Enza Fasano, a respected ceramicist with a long history in the Grottaglie neighborhood in Puglia, Italy, makes these plates. For Porta, Russotti and del Balzo worked with Fasano to create a signature collection that reflects the fresh and simple qualities of summer and alfresco dining in both design and hue, specifically burgundy or green. SHOP NOW

Shop at Porta

Archivist Gallery Giant Matches

Founded 20 years ago in the U.K. and run by wife-and-husband duo Sarah and William Allardice (and loved by Russotti and del Balzo for nearly as long), Archivist Gallery uses the traditional letterpress printing technique to create its range of cards, stationery, and supersized matchboxes. Featuring colorful extra-long matchsticks, they’re guaranteed to ignite both candlesticks and conversations. SHOP NOW

Shop at Porta

Eve Candle Holder

The craftsmanship and care that Laetitia Rouget, a French designer living in Lisbon, put into this handcrafted candle holder stopped me in my tracks. Its design is a twist on the biblical tale of Eve and the serpent, and it embodies Porta’s penchant for uncoventional elegance. The shop carries a few of Rouget’s other pieces, but they sell out quicker than Russotti and del Balzo can restock them. SHOP NOW

Shop at Porta

Alvaro Picardo Lamp Shades

These hand-painted lampshades by London- and Barcelona-based designer Alvaro Picardo are the epitome of functional artwork. Russotti and del Balzo collaborated with Picardo on the original designs, which take inspiration from various sources, such as artistic movements, the natural world, and architecture.

Our Contributors

Elysha Beckerman Writer

Elysha Beckerman is Senior Director of Partnerships at Departures and has shared brand stories, spotlighted creatives, and built partnerships for over a decade. She blends this deep storytelling experience with her passion for bringing people together through her dinner series Nomadic Gathering. If you visit her at home in Brooklyn, she’ll happily make you pasta.

Ahonen & Lamberg Illustrator

Ahonen & Lamberg is a multidisciplinary design studio based in Paris. Founded in 2006 by Finnish designers Anna Ahonen and Katariina Lamberg, the studio concentrates on art direction, creative consultancy, and graphic design.

Departures and American Express do not provide, endorse, or guarantee any of the items, and the sale of such items is governed by the third-party seller’s policies, terms, and conditions.

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