Two very singular, almost literary characters - Ermanno Taschera and Vincenzo Zagaria. Always dressed in dark suits, silent and taciturn. A smile here, a bow there, a friendly shake of the hand for a regular customer?"never a word or gesture out of place.
And yet, if they wanted to, Taschera and Zagaria would have so many things to tell they could fill the pages of an encyclopedia of international gossip. Business associates, they are the owners of Baretto al Baglioni, one of best known and most popular restaurants in Milan that this year celebrated its 50th anniversary.
Opened in 1962 as an American bar in Via Sant'Andrea, its home is now inside the Hotel Baglioni in Via Senato.
"I don't like telling anecdotes about our customers, all the big names in finance, the arts and journalism," Taschera, as reticent as always, starts off by saying. "It's no accident that Baretto's logo is the three monkeys of the motto: 'Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil'.
In fact, at the beginning it was called Monkey Bar. Discretion has always been the better part of our valor. I could tell you about the elegance of by-gone days, the rich Russians who think they can enter in Bermudas, and we have to explain to them that this isn't a tennis court. Or about the young heirs who are ashamed of having good manners. But I will never mention names."
The restaurant is a second home for the Marzotto, Dompé and Agnelli families, and all newspaper editors-in-chief come here for business lunches.
"Yes, newspaper editorial directors," his partner Zagaria jumps in. "They are the most difficult ones to seat. For example, when Vittorio Feltri and Ferruccio de Bortoli make reservations for the same time, we always try to find a strategic solution.
I can tell you that Martina Colombari and Billy Costacurta fell in love at one of our tables. Or that health food enthusiast Henri Chenot loves heaping plates of rich food, including kidneys.
In the past, eccentrics like Günther Sacks arrived in jeans and pullovers, now there's Philippe Starck in technicolor outfits. Today we are fascinated by our new customers?"the Chinese and Koreans who are extremely curious and impeccable. But it's useless trying to tell them not to take photos, it's just one click after another.
And just think, we don't even have a starred chef. Our dishes are classics. Just like us."