Historical Cafe Fantoni in Villafranca

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Mr. Giovanni’s flair appears already in the location of the restaurant, intentionally or not very favorably: in the center of the village and close to the “Consorteria”, the Town Hall, already from the 16th century (now the “Il Sole” hotel) .

Angelo Messedaglia Villafranchese

Luck adds of his: here was born 22 years earlier what will be the last great villafranchese character, Angelo Messedaglia , distinguished economist, university professor in Padua and in Rome, deputy and senator from 1866 to 84, president of the Accademia dei Lincei. The birthplace, which due to the growing fame of the economist, will become a national monument bringing considerable added value, will be a further opportunity for visibility to the commercial merits of the Fantoni company. The highlight on April 13, 1902 on the occasion of the laying on the facade of the commemorative plaque, the text of which was dictated by Luigi Luzzatti, future President of the Council of Ministers and official speaker of the circumstance was prof. Ferraris of the University of Padua.

The commercial activity of Giovanni Fantoni also begins close to the first signs of the European revolutions of 1848 and for Italy of the Risorgimento period. This period, which in some respects could have generated negativity, is instead the starting point for an important peculiar characterization of Caffè Fantoni. In fact, among the undoubted commercial capacities of its owner is the inspiration to be able to grasp the “air” of the moment and to turn it in its favor. There is the Austrian Restoration and the coffee in its furniture will recall the Viennese environment as much as possible. Then comes the Risorgimento and the skilful Giovanni links some of his specialties to memorable Risorgimento episodes, which happened locally, aware that his products will enjoy that fame.
Here is the “Peace Cake” in memory of the famous treatise of 1859 and there is the suspicion that the “Amaro Villafranca wanted to express, on the other hand, the regret that that treatise gave birth to in the hearts of many. One of the few glorious moments of the unfortunate tertiary War of Independence, it is the episode of the “Quadrato”, when the carabinieri prevented Prince Umberto from being taken prisoner near Villafranca: Cav. Fantoni churns out the “Biscottini Umberto”. , new Fantoni specialties: “I Biscottini della Libya”, hand in hand with the Italian colonial adventure. On this line, the epigone is a moderately alcoholic liqueur, at first quite anonymous, which rose to national fame and was patented, when D’Annunzio, received it as a gift during the Rijeka occupation it renamed it “Acqua di Fiume” in memory of his Istrian enterprise. Later on the liqueur will be advertised nationally with the oslogan created by Fantoni “everywhere in the main cafes and restaurants “.
In consideration of this particular skill it may seem not too rhetorical to say that Caffè Fantoni has marked the historical events of Italy with its specialties for a considerable period. Undoubtedly alongside the “commemorative” products now out of fashion, there are other “immortals”, first of all the Fantoni Sfogliatine, the confectionery symbol of Villafranca nationally. Giovanni Fantoni was also able to grasp the importance of the image as a privileged advertising vehicle, as demonstrated by the episode of the Villafranchese carnival of 1906 when the Fantoni patisserie won the prize for the best allegorical float with the “Triumph of the Natalino”.
Evaluated in the press of the time as a superb work of art worthy of participating in the traditional carnivals of national fame, made on a sketch by Edoardo Ximenes, then a well-known designer and illustrator of the Milanese magazine “L’Illustrazione Italiana”.
Incidentally, “Natalino” can rightly be considered a forerunner of the recurring confectionery products created by Fantoni . Cavalier Fantoni was able to heal the friendships that gave visibility, including D’Annunzio, Trilussa, Fogazzaro, Renato Simoni, Berto Barbacani, Dall’Oca Bianca and others. But above all, Caffè Fantoni was, from its birth, a privileged meeting point for the “good” society typical of the province and for those who, perhaps once a year, wanted to stand out for a particular occasion.
This position of excellence has remained intact to this day. I believe that a referendum was held not only between the Villafranchesi, but in the whole territory that is between Verona and Mantua, asking if Fantoni can be considered “historic” would be a plebiscite. Regional recognition and even more recent restoration was therefore most appropriate.

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