Giuseppe Cipriani

First name(s):
Giuseppe

Last/Family name:
Cipriani

Died:

Originally from:
Verona

Profession:
Bartender

At:
Venice

There are people who create famous drinks. And there are folk who invent famous dishes. But there are very few men or women who do both - and Giuseppe Cipriani, the man credited with both the Bellini and the Carpaccio, is a phenomenon for that alone.

Chuck into the mix Harry's Bar, Venice, the little place he founded in 1931 which remains one of the world's iconic bars and restaurants, and the dynasty his son and grandson continue to run, and you're looking at one impressive guy.

Born in Verona in 1900, Cipriani moved to Germany as a child, and the experience equipped him with the immigrant's drive to succeed.

He began his career as a waiter in the grand hotels of Italy and elsewhere, then settled in Venice as a barman, first at the Hotel Monaco, then at the Hotel Europa-Britannia. A soft touch, Cipriani rapidly became known around town for his generosity.

The founding of Harry's Bar is, by now, bartending legend. In 1927, a wealthy young Bostonian named Harry Pickering, accompanied by his aunt, her toyboy and her lapdog, became a regular at the Hotel Europa bar.

After a row, the aunt skedaddled with the toyboy, leaving Harry with the lapdog and no money. So Pickering tapped up Cipriani for a loan - an impressive 10,000 lire.

It was February 1931 before Pickering returned, equipped not only with the capital but 40,000 lire more, which Cipriani used to fulfil his dream of opening his own place. Giuseppe named both his bar and his son, who was born the next year, after his benefactor - and a legend was born.

Legendary man, legendary drinks

"We served good drinks," Giuseppe recalled four decades later. "And a lot of artists and writers came into the place. I'd lend them money when they needed it."

By 1934 Harry's was doing well - well enough for Cipriani to open his second venue, an inn on a Venetian island.

Out of a stellar clientele - Orson Welles, Peggy Guggenheim, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall and Winston Churchill were just a few of Harry's visitors - it is Hemingway who is perhaps most associated with Harry's Bar.

Cipriani counted the great man as a friend. He kept Locanda Cipriani open one winter so that Hemingway could shoot ducks and write his novel, Across the River and Into the Trees. Hemingway, in turn, referenced Harry's in his novel, and taught Cipriani his favoured style of martini, the potent, 15:1 Montgomery.

Cipriani's business suffered during the war. He recalled the Nazi occupiers asking him which of his customers were Jews, and replying that he did not know: "They were all Italians to me."

A brave man, with a timeless sense of style, Cipriani was passionate about his adoptive home. He named both the Bellini, a drink most likely based on a popular Italian combination of Prosecco and white peaches, and the Carpaccio for Venetian painters.

And, though the business that Cipriani founded has gone through many incarnations and challenges, and now spans several continents, Harry's Bar retains its eternal sense of style.

Says Arrigo, Giuseppe's son, still spry although pushing 80: "My father taught me everything, because he invented everything. Truly, I think I am one of his inventions."

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