While the former lists Parisian clichés with a generous dose of eccentric flair on the hit Netflix series “Emily in Paris”, the latter is a woman of sober elegance with the royal mission of showing Italians the most authentic side of France, starting with its culinary tradition.
This is the spirit of Lorenzi’s Maison Aubry, an emporium that has just opened in Milan‘s Via Bellotti, in the Porta Venezia area full of restaurants and bars. In the first few weeks, the store has already attracted both the local French community looking for everyday kitchen essentials and curious Italians looking to shake up their pantries.
The key factor is Maison Aubry’s combination of a sophisticated image and a direct, democratic approach, which sets the emporium apart. Lorenzi’s goal is to prove that French delicatessens aren’t just for special occasions, and that his cuisine is about much more than champagne, foie gras, and oysters: the instant connections Italians make when they think of their neighbors across the border. Therefore, the store is full of basic products, such as crème fraîche and butter, as well as different types of cheese and chocolate from niche providers or small and medium-sized companies, in addition to the highest offer.
In fact, the idea behind Maison Aubry originated from Lorenzi’s own need to find kitchen essentials far from his homeland. Lorenzi, a former lawyer specializing in risk management and terrorism, moved to Milan almost seven years ago, after meeting her husband, originally from Bastia, Corsica. Not fitting in in their respective hometowns, the couple sampled Luxembourg as common ground to build a life together, before finally finding Milan’s strategic location and livable scale their sweet spot.
Before the pandemic Lorenzi traveled to Paris at least twice a month, each time bringing loads of the goods she craved, but with COVID-19 and her young son starting school in Milan, she was faced with the reality of establishing more stable roots in the city.
“When I first came here, I didn’t know anyone. I signed up for an adult painting class at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera, but I still missed my family and cultural references,” Lorenzi recalled. “Y food it was part of that… It’s important. Italians abroad look for their brands when they buy and French brands were missing here, so I built this project based on this scarcity, ”he says, jokingly adding that the driving force behind the business venture was“very nostalgic.”
“The idea got serious with COVID-19 because little by little I changed my lifestyle,” says Lorenzi, who was forced to suspend her normally frequent flights to Paris and her six-month stay in Marrakech, where the couple have a riad. “I realized [Milan] it was my city and that here I had to build my little Paris”.
By creating Maison Aubry, he blended the two cultures. He named the shop after his grandmother, who used to gather every Sunday to cook traditional delicacies, ranging from the “pot-au-feu” dish of boiled beef and vegetables to the soufflé.
To curate the interior concept, Lorenzi turned to Sicilian architect Giovanni Musica from the MGALab studio. Already the creative force behind other restaurants and private projects in the city, Musica envisioned for Maison Aubry an essential space defined by pale blue wooden walls and a hand-painted ceramic counter with a glass screen to showcase fresh produce. . Chandeliers, wooden tables and brass details further mark the store, which occupies two floors.
While the basement is intended for tastings and private events, the main area on the ground floor showcases the variety of curated products. These include artisan preserves produced in Brittany by La Paimpolaise; crayon-shaped seasonings to sharpen on Ocni dishes; multiple types of honey from Hédène; fancy sugar cubes in different shapes from Canasuc; chocolate from Le Comptoir de Mathilde; cookies and macarons from Les Mirliflores or La Sablesienne, and the precious caviar from Caviar Perle Noire, among others.
“The products are selected based on what cannot be found in Milan but is important to us. The main focus is quality, but of course there is nothing here that comes in horrible packaging,” says Lorenzi with a smile. “We work with many different suppliers, more than 30, and we avoid industrially produced things but work with niche brands or family businesses.”
The focal point of the project is the selection of wines and champagne, as Lorenzi noticed that only big names like Moët & Chandon, Ruinart or Veuve Clicquot were mainly available in the city. So Lorenzi flanked them with lesser-known labels, covering all price points in the process.
“French cuisine tends to always seem expensive, but I was very careful to offer different prices. Sure, I have retail bottles for up to 600 euros, but I’ve included a bit of everything. The entry price for a bottle of wine here is 8 euros, very accessible… The mission is really to allow customers, even the French who live here, to discover new labels,” says Lorenzi.
In general, the most sought-after products since the opening are Madeleine pastries, foie gras, as well as all kinds of pates and cheeses, including Camembert and Reblochon. The bottles of rosé also sold out immediately.
“It’s funny, we drink it only when it’s hot outside, never in the fall, but Italians love rosé and all stocks ran out quickly. I have now placed a new order that includes additional labels, such as Miraval, owned by Brad Pitt in the south of France,” says Lorenzi.
With the Christmas and New Year festivities approaching, Maison Aubry will also offer special baskets, including one focused on foie gras and that comes with a specific type of bread and an ideal pairing with wine, or another that plays with all golden products.
Before launching a catering service for private events in March, Maison Aubry will also expand its assortment to test other categories that are part of people’s daily lives, starting with Marseille soaps, for example.
“The idea is that you can include us in your daily routine,” says Lorenzi. To further educate the audience on the authentic customs of France and provide information about the products available in the store, Lorenzi aims to take advantage of Instagram through content such as quick recipe videos and informative videos. “This is also because the general idea of French cuisine is less clear and crystallized compared to Italian. What we eat is very different from what you see in restaurants. On the one hand, we never eat entrecote at home”, says Lorenzi.
Asked about other differences between the two cultures, she highlighted the more domestic dimension and the stronger presence of the family in the daily life of Italians. “Another thing I love is that when you live in Paris, you stay in Paris on the weekends, while in Milan you have the mountains or the sea closer and it’s easy to move around,” she adds.
Here Lorenzi offers WWD his quick guide to enjoy both cities:
Favorite area and why:
In Milan, Porta Venezia because it’s close to the center and it’s a very lively neighborhood.
In Paris, the 16th arrondissement for its tranquility and markets and Saint-Germain-des-Prés for its shops and restaurants.
Where to eat:
In Milan, coffee at Égalité for its croissants; aperitif at LùBar for its beautiful interior, quiet atmosphere and proximity to the park; lunch at Bomaki for sushi that mixes Japanese and Brazilian flavors.
In Paris, coffee at Le Bonaparte for its impressive view over the Saint-Germain-des-Prés church; aperitif at Rosa Bonheur sur Seine; meals at Les Enfants du Marché or Les Gourmets des Ternes for their meat and traditional setting.
What to see:
In Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera, which exhibits large oil paintings.
In Paris, the Beaubourg [Centre Pompidou] and the Musée Rodin in spring to enjoy its garden.
City Soundtrack: I listen to Italian music from the 60s in Milan and Fauve in Paris.
I cannot travel between the two cities without…My Bose headphones!