How do you reinvent something as basic as a pizzeria? For starters, try a new utensil. At the White Monkey Pizza Lab & Bar in Leipzig, Germany—expected to be the first in a chain launched by a restaurant and hotel behemoth, the Mövenpick Gruppe—diners are handed giant scissors for snipping through long rectangular pizzas ranging from the classic to the nontraditional. Nutella, anyone?
Next, introduce eye-catching furnishings and graphics. That’s where Interior Design Hall of Fame members Peter Ippolito and Gunter Fleitz enter the picture.
Referencing the White Monkey in the establishment’s name, the Ippolito Fleitz Group employed cheeky simian shapes throughout the 3,300 square feet. One monkey presents bananas on a platter. Several are lamps, used both for lighting and as a way-finding aid for the restrooms.
Monkey business aside, references to pizza’s native Italy dominate. Red, pink, and earthy tones recall sunny Tuscany, and ceramic tile nods to the flooring in classic trattorias. But that’s relatively subtle compared to the splashy, slightly surreal murals, which combine images of Renaissance art with dolce vita photography. Think of a posse of Sandro Botticelli’s Venuses bursting from an abstract “shell,” composed of more Venuses, or of Michelangelo’s David pensively observing a pinup-style bathing beauty as she steps out of a swimming pool, onto a record turntable.
“In a big space, an assertive collage is a conversation-starter,” Ippolito notes. Fleitz adds, “Everything is totally familiar but, at the same time, not at all.”
Pizzas are baked and salads tossed at an open preparation station in a corner. Filling the rest of the ground level, the 130 seats are configured to cater to families, solo diners, and everyone in between, thanks to a mix of banquettes, freestanding two-tops, and spots at the bar, a sort of E shape in glossy black. Bar patrons can perch on the gray leather-covered seats of stools while sipping cocktails. They include three monkey-themed variations.