In the arcade of the four winds (as well as fours steps), a recurrent phrase began to be heard: “We’ll see you at the Zucca.” Campari had left, leaving behind the counter inlaid by Eugenio Quarti for Carlo Zucca, inventor of a rhubarb drink that would be appreciated by Hemingway and the theatre crowd. “see you at the Zucca,” was a wonderful way of breaking down the enduring barrier between the east wing where at Savini’s tables artistic celebrities met with the city’s leading socialites, and the where west wing where unemployed opera people gathered, ”picturesque figures wearing heavy cloaks and thick mufflers wrapped around their neck, with romantic manes under broad-brimmed hats.”
“See you at the Zucca” was a refrain that cut Savini to the quick.
Zucca coffee, 50’s / 60’s.
How could the elite crowd with their glittering ladies desert this establishment, the traditional meeting place of those holding the most expensive tickets to La Scala? An ingenious solution was found, which marked a turning point in the Savini’s reputation and the very life of the Galleria.
From that time on, he would offer a midnight buffet to down-at-the-heel artists and writers. A risotto all’onda, a seltzer with a slice of lemon, satisfied appetites and delightfully décolleté garments made for a fine way of celebrating an opening night performance, the opening of an art exhibition, the presentation of a book just off the press or an evening at La Scala.
The Galleria’s years between World War I and World War II were unforgettable. Milan lived for art and culture, showing itself to be eager for honors, avid for worldliness and above all burning with desire to live to the full…. But the distant thud of marching boots could be heard, on ill omen… The thick red carpet was hastily removed and a quilt cover thrown over the Galleria, plunging it into gloom. The artists’ meeting place was about to sink in the disaster or war.
Gallery after the 43’s bombing Corriere della Sera Archive
Reconstruction works in the Galleria of 1946 Corriere della Sera Archive
Detail of the dome after the bombing of 43.
1945: canteen for the Allies in the Galleria.
Years of penitence and oblivion followed for the Galleria, while human folly completed its work. Mengoni’s creation suffered beyond measure, but in this time of sorrow the words of Sainte-beuve provided some consolation: “What is truly beautiful survives without being destroyed.” The war wounds slowly healed. In 1955, on the feast day of patron Saint Ambrose, Milan could smile again. The Galleria was back at its best.