Sprezzatura is an Italian word meaning “a studied nonchalance”—effort that appears effortless. A perfect paradox, and an apt name for a brand-new restaurant in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant neighbourhood showcasing vintage photographs, exposed bulbs and distressed floors with plenty of calculated cool.
“It’s been a long dream in the making,” says Nicole Gomes, senior designer at Sophie Burke Design. Burke herself and Sprezzatura owner Michael Parker are longtime friends, and dreamed up the collaboration decades ago while both were living in London. Parker’s idea for the restaurant was a callback to his London days: a British gastropub-style hotspot that served casual Italian eats.
But gastropub essentials (think wainscoting, millwork details and antique appliances) don’t quite flow with modern design—or health codes: “They’re worn down, they’re vintage, nothing’s clean,” says Gomes. The trio set out to preserve a pub vibe while keeping the space safe and stylish.
They started with the pizza bar, an expansive stretch of counter clad in reclaimed barn board and a natural black soapstone that’s well-suited for piping-hot pies. Light green pendant lights from Amsterdam make a major statement, and uneven subway tiles provide a casual structure. “We didn’t want anything to feel clean or sleek or new,” Gomes says. The entire pizza prep area is open; it has the sort of intentional nonchalance that gives the restaurant its name.
The 17-foot-high ceilings and wall-to-wall windows posed a challenge for Burke and Parker, who wanted the space to reflect a pub-like warmth and intimacy. Another paradox, another solution: using an almost-black paint, Burke sunk the ceiling line a few feet. This creates the illusion of coziness without sacrificing any space. She dropped the eye level further with more pendant lighting, and translated the traditional wooden wainscoting of an old-school British haunt into a dark blue plaster treatment.
Running eight feet up the walls, it provides the space with a modern playfulness. “It gives so much texture to the space, and lends itself to feeling more authentic to the building,” says Gomes. “It doesn’t look like there’s effort—it’s just there.