Vito Mollica’s ‘Atto’ Transforms the Culinary Landscape

Vito Mollica

A couple of years ago, Michelin-star chef Vito Mollica chose to take a risk. In late June, 2023, that risk, the restaurant Chic Nonna, celebrated its first anniversary as Florence’s newest culinary destination. A year later the restaurant is consolidated on the Florence dining scene as Atto. 

In the heart of Florence, within the historic walls of the Palazzo Portinari Salviati, lies a culinary gem that transcends mere dining. Atto is a fine restaurant that bridges history, artistry, and gastronomy; effectively revitalizing Florence’s sophisticated dining offerings.  Located inside the Corte degli Imperatori (Court of the Emperors) of the historic Palazzo Portinari on via del Corso, Atto is set within architectural history of the palazzo.

Vito Mollica’s culinary philosophy of using ingredients of utmost quality to create a menu with a “traditional flair but to international taste” earned, previously, Chic Nonna a Michelin star for 2023, its first year of eligibility. Atto is open from Monday to Sunday, 10 am to 11 pm.

A New Chapter for Chef Vito Mollica

Mollica, the visionary behind Atto, delved into the philosophy  behind this esteemed restaurant which expresses his passion, opening a new chapter in Florence’s culinary legacy.

Mollica shared the journey from the inception of the new name, emphasizing its profound significance: “We had to find a simple, direct, and very easy-to-pronounce name. That’s why we chose ‘Atto’ – a name with a lot of meaning.” Translating to “Act.” As he vividly painted the dining experience at Atto, Mollica explained it as akin to a theatrical performance. “It is a kind of theater – there is Act I, Act II, Act III – when you go to eat dinner, it is exactly this: from the initial greeting to the first and second course and so on.” Each moment, from the warm welcome to the final flourish of dessert, unfolds like a scene in a play, captivating guests and immersing them in a world of culinary delight and impeccable service.

His unwavering dedication to hospitality extends beyond mere words – it permeates every aspect of Atto. For Mollica, guests are not just patrons. “All my effort are to train my team to make sure that the protagonist of the dining experience is always the guest. Only then do you add in the menus, music, atmosphere, design,” he said.

Every member of the restaurant’s dedicated team is meticulously trained to anticipate and exceed the needs of each guest, ensuring that their dining experience is nothing short of exceptional. The kitchen is not a stage upon which Chef Mollica seeks to shine alone; rather, it is a collaborative space where each member of his team plays a vital role in bringing his vision to life.

Through three distinct spaces within Palazzo Portinari Salviati, guests can find a plethora of environments tailored to their diverse moods and requirements, meticulously curated to accommodate various occasions – the Salotto Portinari, Atto Restaurant, and Eye Bar. Crafted for adaptability, the Salotto Portinari offers an intimate setting that welcomes guests whether they’re seeking a quick coffee, a relaxed catch-up with friends, or a family outing with children. For those in pursuit of a sophisticated dining experience, Atto restaurant entices with its refined ambiance and exceptional culinary offerings, characterized by an unwavering dedication to gastronomic excellence. Finally, Eye Bar exudes a vibrant energy, serving as an ideal space for guests to unwind with a drink before embarking on dinner or a night at the theater, fostering the ideal setting for engaging conversation.

The History Behind Chef Vito Mollica’s Legacy

Before becoming the head chef curator of Palazzo Portinari, Mollica spent nearly 25 years running the Michelin-star restaurants at the Four Seasons hotels in Florence, Milan, and Prague.  He has built a very impressive resume, from obtaining multiple Michelin stars, winning the 2013 Dish of the Year title from the Guida Ristoranti de L’Espresso (a highly influential Italian restaurant guide), and 2014 Chef of the Year from the Il Sole 24 Ore restaurant guide.

Originally from Avigliano, Mollica’s culinary passion began as a child whilst admiring his mother cooking local dishes from Lucania.  

When a Taiwanese family bought and restored the Palazzo Portinari, they approached Mollica with a proposal to create a new restaurant specific to the palazzo.  He agreed to become a part of this new business venture because he wanted to “take a risk and to give adrenaline” to his life after turning 50.

Realizing the discrepancy within Florence’s historic center between local Florentines and tourists, Mollica conceptualized the potential of what the space could become.  He ultimately decided to develop a place where the “people who live in Florence can be confident and comfortable to come in the center and find a place to relax;” effectively designing a salotto of the city wherein people can escape the crowding of the tourists and enjoy the true elegance of Florence.

The History of the Spaces

Specifically tailored for Palazzo Portinari, the spaces known as previously, Chic Nonna, and the Salotto epitomize the laid-back elegance synonymous with the palazzo’s storied history. Once belonging to the illustrious Portinari family, renowned as the great love of the famed Italian poet Dante Alighieri’s life, the palazzo stands as a testament to the opulent lifestyles of Florence’s elite centuries ago.

Folco Portinari, Beatrice’s father and a prosperous banker who founded the Santa Maria Nuova hospital, originally developed the palazzo complex. While the ownership of the palazzo has changed hands over the years, it transitioned to public use in 1803 when acquired by the Municipality of Florence. Subsequently, the banker’s residence evolved into the Banca Toscana, a local bank, which later transformed into Chic Nonna. Architecturally, the spaces housing the restaurants have undergone meticulous restoration, preserving their historic allure while infusing them with a contemporary flair, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the sophistication of the palazzo.

The pièce de résistance of the palazzo’s interior is the Salviati chapel, adorned with frescoes by Italian painter Alessandro Allori between 1579 and 1580. Consecrated in August 1581 and recently restored, the chapel is dedicated to Mary Magdalene and depicts various religious scenes. From prophets and sibyls to cherubs holding scrolls inscribed with passages from the Holy Scriptures, the artwork portrays pivotal moments from the lives of Mary Magdalene and Christ himself.

Chef Mollica’s newest venture purposefully contrasts from the high energy of Florence’s city center, prioritizing appreciation for eating quality food, that takes time to prepare.  In Mollica’s own words, “I like the world when it’s slow, and not too fast.” (Molly Mulvihill and Carmel Madadshahi)