A live conversation between Tom Dixon and Francesca Sarti of Arabeschi di Latte


Tom speaks to Francesca Sarti, founder of renowned food design studio Arabeschi di Latte, who has collaborated with him over many years in Milan.


Throughout time and history, food has been integral to society and communities. Francesca investigates the role of food through a creative filter, creating instillations, experiences and workshops. In this way, she blurs the boundaries between design, architecture, art and food.


“What I design - everything that is around food. I never make the food, and I always create stories around it. I use it to communicate, I use it to make a statement... All my projects are food related, but I don’t make the food.” (Francesca).


They discuss Italy’s food culture and culinary traditions, which are strikingly different from the UK.


“When I first came to Italy, I was astonished by the food culture – not so much about the food, but more about the time that people take around food. Anglo Saxon food can be about eating a sandwich at your computer for lunch, but what was interesting to me, was not just the amount of time that was taken, but how much more interesting, rich and deep the conversations became if you were taking that time where the excuse is food.” (Tom).


“It’s not only about just eating as the answer to a primal need, but it’s also creating an experience… The way Italians approach food is deeply related with time, and the magic moment which you are enjoying food”. (Francesca).


During past Salone events, Tom has noticed the power of food for Italians -“where everyone is seeking a new visual sensation the whole time, food is the only thing that slows them down and stops them.”


As well as food, design and architecture, Tom and Francesca share a passion for music. Francesca’s perfect escapism is Karaoke – “You don’t have to worry about how you sing. It’s really the fact that you are singing that makes you relax and enjoy.”


She and Tom plan on performing a joint Karaoke duet during the next Salone del Mobile, in September 2021!






Tom Dixon: Francesca, tell me a bit about you and who you are.

Francesca Sarti: Ciao! I’m Francesca Sarti. I’m director and founder of Arabeschi di Latte – a design studio based in London and Milan, and we have worked together many times, and – yeah! Thank you for inviting me.

TD: Ok, well thank you for all the crazy food you’ve made for us over the years. So, Francesca, thank you for joining us from Milan. You know that we’re not able to be there because travelling has become impossible, um, but, um, we’ve been long time collaborators in Fuorisalone. So, as you know it’s the - It’s the 60th anniversary of the Salone and this should have been the time when we would be in Milan with you, eating your incredible food, um, but we can’t be there so unfortunately, um, I’m travelling only by digital means, but you’re in Milan now. So, tell me a bit about what you would have been doing this year if Salone had gone ahead on the original date?

FS: Well, this year I think we would have been in need – A strong need for a bit of lightness as Italo Calvino likes to say, no? To reduce the weight, so, so I think it should be something that’s pure joy, fun, and where we can really – I don’t know – Stop thinking of – Forget everything for a while.

TD: Ok?

FS: (Laughs) And that – And this is where it comes – The kind of ‘dream project’ I have. It’s been years I would like to do that. Actually, I did a very small one ages ago, like probably we didn’t even know each other. It was probably ten – More than ten years ago, um, but it would be great to do it again with Tom Dixon, and this project – It’s a karaoke.

TD: Ok.

FS: (Laughs) I’m a big fan of karaoke. The Asian style one where you can have your room and with friends. You can really enjoy – You can, um, really experience this little room where you don’t have to worry about, you know, how you sing. It’s really the fact that you are singing that makes you relax and enjoy, yeah. That’s my, kind of, dream project.

TD: Ok, we can do this! So, Salone is happening in September, so we have plenty of time to practise a song. We have plenty of time –

FS: Yeah!

TD: We have plenty of time to arrange the décor and think of the food, so, um, let’s try and make it happen, yeah? This –

FS: Absolutely! Absolutely! And don’t forget that my food is never edible, as you say (laughs). I know -

TD: I didn’t want to say anything! Um, ok, so your food is never edible. This is – This is a strange statement from somebody who, um, who is known for their food, right? So, is that on purpose?

FS: Well, no, it’s is edible, but what I design is everything what is around food. Actually, I never make the food, and I always, like, create stories around it, I use it to communicate, I use it to – To make a statement. So, that’s what I’m saying: I kind of – All my projects, in a way, are food related, but I don’t make the food (laughs). It’s – That’s like a joke, but it’s also the truth (laughs).

TD: Ok, so, I mean I learnt a lot about, um, food from visiting Italy. You know that, um, when I first came to Italy I was astonished by, um, the food culture, particularly not so much about the food which I knew, you know – Every English person knows about the basics of Italian food, um, but more about the time that people take around food, um, and you know, how, you know, Anglo Saxon culture can very much be about eating a sandwich at your computer, um, for lunch. Um, what was interesting to me was not just the amount of time that was taken, but how much more interesting and rich and deep the conversations became around – You know, if you came – If you were taking that time where the excuse was food. You don’t come from a food background, or you do come from a food background?

FS: No, my background is in architecture –

TD: Ok.

FS: So, actually I’m an architect, but already while I was studying I saw the power of food – Of creating a relationship and means helping to define a space, and I think this is much – Is deeply connected with my Italian background because it’s not only about the food itself – It’s the ritual around it as you say, so that’s why food and time becomes so important because it’s not only about, like, just eating and, yeah, let’s say: answering to the primal need of eating. It’s also creating an experience, so I think it’s not by chance that I’ve combined food with space. Food and Architecture, and let’s say: crossed the boundaries between Food, Art and Architecture, because it’s very important – The time part and the – What is around that. So, you’re definitely right saying that it’s the way Italians approach food. It’s deeply related with time and the moment – I like to say ‘The Magic Moments’ which you are enjoying the food.

TD: Yeah, and I think what’s been interesting about working with you and working out what the relationship of food and Salone was is that my observation in this kind of crazy carnival that is, um, the design fair where everybody is seeking a new sensation, a new visual sensation the whole time, food is about the only thing that slows them down and stops them, right? So if you can give something to eat, people will stop and concentrate, um, whatever your proposition is, in a much more, um, I think, healthy way actually.

FS: Yeah, probably the – The food ‘Moment’ during the Milano Salone are the best memories for a lot of people because it’s kind of –

TD: Well a lot of people like the drinking moments as well.

FS: (Laughs) Yes, they’re right! Yeah, because – But food and drink, for Italians, are connected. It’s not like for British, no? You can drink without eating. We can’t!

TD: Ok.

FS: So, yeah, but of course ‘Drinking moments’. Definitely, I think the memories around it: I think it’s – I guess that if you ask a lot of people that has been coming to Salone every year – They will remember some of it and, at least, the one that we experience every night, no, at the end of the night, like ‘bar basso’, but also more experiential projects and moments that will be remembered and –

TD: Well, I feel like what’s miserable is the – Is the fact so many people come from so many parts of the world and of course they’re coming to see design, but they don’t get to experience the richness of, um, the culture in Milan which of course is food, definitely, like everywhere in Italy, but also is Architecture. It’s also Fashion right now – It’s hot again in Milan, and so is Art. You know, the Art scene is particularly vibrant for the first time in ages in Milan, and then you’re adding also this layer of Architecture which – Milan has always produced great architects, and now we’re talking about Music as well so, all of culture, right? So, let’s get back to the music bit! So, um, in terms of – Do you play an instrument?

FS: Oh no, I can’t, but I can sing (laughs).

TD: You can sing, and the karaoke song – Your karaoke song is gonna be what?

FS: Oh no, but I will not sing without you, eh!

TD: Yeah, but then we have to practise a duet.

FS: Yeah, yeah I’ve already started practising, so I will give you one of these (Holds up a microphone).

TD: (Laughs) Ok, so you’ve got the key, um, yeah, the key accessory there. That’s good.

FS: Yeah, but I think in this moment there is a song – It’s, like, it’s new, it’s been - It’s just very light. It’s an Italian song. It’s called ‘Musica leggerissima. It’s been a hit recently because it was presented during this popular, um, music competition that is hosted every year in Sanremo. It’s called Festival di Sanremo, and I think it’s a song that in a way answers to the lightness and the, um, and the idea of, like, reduce the weight in this moment where everybody is feeling -

TD: Are you gonna sing it - Are you gonna sing it just a little bit with your microphone?

FS: Oh my god! (Laughs)

TD: Favore! One line!

FS: Oh no! I - no! No, I can’t without you!

TD: You can! You can! Look, you’re holding the microphone! You’re ready!

FS: (Laughs) No, because now my mind is like a blank page. I can’t remember even a note.

TD: Ok. So, ok, send me – Send me the link and I’ll practise, but is it a duet? Can we do it together really?

FS: Yeah, yeah!

TD: Ok, so we can make a promise for September to A: Have a karaoke bar; B: Sing a duet together; but C? What are we gonna eat in the karaoke bar? It’s not gonna be junk –

FS: Pineapple! Everything will be pineapple based. That is the symbol of hospitality.

TD: Really?

FS: Yes, it is. It has been a symbol for hospitality, welcoming for ages and so, I think it’s also a nice symbol in terms of graphic, and so I will suggest that we gonna call this karaoke ‘Pineapple Karaoke’ and I even recently discovered -

TD: (Laughs) It’s like you’ve decided everything –

FS: Yeah, I know, it’s right. I’m really revealing too much (Laughs).

TD: Yeah, yeah! You have to leave a surprise, for sure, um, to make people excited, but, um, I definitely think that this is an advert for a sponsor without a doubt, yeah.

FS: Yeah!

TD: You see, I’ve already got the, um, the equipment ready so you’re not gonna have to pay anything.

FS: Yeah, we need that as well. (Holds up microphone)

TD: Yeah - Pineapple colour! Um, and it’s just a shame we can’t be in Milan right now because I guess it’s already starting to get warm and people are starting to go out, or are they staying in still because it’s Red Zone?

FS: Well, it’s still Red Zones, so it’s not easy. Luckily, in a way, this week has been bad weather, so it was easier to respect the Red Zone, but I guess as soon as the sun come out it will be very difficult.

TD: Ok. Well look, Francesca, thank you very much for appearing, um, with me and, um, sharing your plan. I’m definitely your number one collaborator and also karaoke partner.

FS: (Laughs) Yeah!

TD: So, I’m gonna look forward to seeing you in September, and, again, I’m sorry I can’t join you right there, right now, because it’s a terrible thing that we can’t all be in the biggest week of our year as designers there in Milan, but these things happen, right?

FS: Yeah, we need to – To be creative at this time as well.

TD: Understandable, yeah! Ok! A presto!

FS: A presto!

BOTH: Ciao!