There are lots of secret places in Barcelona, lots of not so famous places despite the quality of their service, food, drinks or prices. There are so many places that will be the labor of a lifetime to point out every single outstanding corner of this ever changing city…
There are too disappeared places, demolished in times when nobody cared about the value – architectonical, historical or symbolical – for a city with too much history.
Today I’m speaking about the most luxurious and famous Café Torino, opened in 1903 and closed in 1911, located in the number 18 of Passeig de Gracia. The Barcelona manager of the Torino Company, Ricard Capmany, seeing the success that the previous Café Torino - inaugurated in 1901 at carrer Escudellers - was attracting, decided to bring the same concept to Passeig de Gracia, with the idea of gaining as clients the rising bourgeoisie.
Maintaining the collaboration with Flaminio Mezzalama - the manager in Spain of the famous Martini & Rossi Company - used the Café Torino’ to promote the beverages of that brand.
Just knowing that in this café was the first place in Barcelona where people could order a “Vermouth”, the most typical of the typical drinks in Barcelona and a huge part of Spain, would be enough, but keep reading: this is just the least important of the reasons to preserve it…
Capmany, knowing that Café Torino was the representation of Martini & Rossi in Barcelona, didn't pay attention to the budget. He hired the best architects in Barcelona, the gods of Catalonian architecture (Antoni Gaudí, Josep Puig I Cadafalch y Pere Falqués) to build the Art-Nouveau inspired spaces, full of curves and exotism, unexpected materials and imagination, everyone commissioned to design one aspect of the place.
Gaudi designed the main room; the wood ceiling in the entrance was designed by Puig I Cadafalch, the iron-forged canopy with stained glasses by Pere Falqués; the lower wall decoration by Hermenegildo Miralles (one of the pioneers in graphic design in Spain) that used a huge variety of materials (paper, cardboard, plastic, linoleum…) to create a sea of textures and patterns; the upper wall was decorated with tapestries painted by Urgell and Ferrater; and the ceiling fresco painting was made by Saumell I García.
The counter was a huge mosaic brought from Venecia and all the stone sculptures were made by Josep Massana and Buzzi. Worth to mention the outstanding job carving the wood of the workshop Calonge and Sons, the metalwork by Quintana, and the lamps glass was work of the Venetian Brothers Tosso. The furnitures were bought from the factory of Michael Thonet in Wien, one of the most famous furnitures designers in the world - widely known and praised for his classical design of a wood chair.
After just nine year of business, the top of the line of the fashionable locations - I dare to say- ever, closed.