First, tell us about the Princi partnership – what has been your inspiration behind Princi standalone stores?
I recall my first experience with Princi in London. Biting into a fresh baked cornetti filled with raspberry jam, it was absolutely heavenly. When Howard asked me to take on the project of leading Starbucks Roastery, Reserve and Princi, I said to Howard, “I know Princi!” Howard replied, “If you know Princi in London, you’ve got to experience it in Milan!”
I traveled to Milan soon thereafter and had the great pleasure of enjoying time with Rocco Princi. Despite our language differences, Rocco shared his passion for sourcing great ingredients by delighting me with the freshness and aromas of the ingredients. Grabbing handfuls of tomatoes, instructing me with great enthusiasm: “Smell! Smell!” and “Now, try this! Try this loaf cake!” It was a physical, immersive connection. It was more than just the food, it’s about passion for the craft and the pursuit of extraordinary ingredients.
Rocco refers to his culinary artistry and the culture in his stores as the “Spirito di Milano” (The Spirit of Milan). How would you describe “Spirito di Milano”?
Something very unique to Milan is that, after work, people gather around aperitivo time—which is a time for socializing between work and home. Each of Rocco Princi’s stores in Milan have this energy. And it reminded me of what Starbucks experience is for coffee! You recognize the brand, you recognize the product is familiar and the environment reflects its architecture, but the mood and tone are created by the commessas who work there and the customers they interact with. Each store is its own family and yet each shares commonality. We all want people to take a break and enjoy food, coffee and a great conversation. That’s what I believe to be “Spirito di Milano.” It’s all about community, generosity and warmth.
We’re already hooked! Tell us, what’s on the menu?
You’ll see changes throughout the day, with an array of pastries, granola and fresh berries in the morning on a rich yogurt base. A loaf cake mid-morning; pizzas, soups and salads for lunch and, my favorite part of the day… desserts! Of course, aperitivo includes more savory offerings which go well with the Aperol spritz and evening cocktails. You’ll see the menu change across seasons too. You’ll see new introductions: a smoked salmon topping fitting for a warm summer’s day. The best tomatoes are freshest when they’re right off the vine. Rocco will reflect that by dialing up and down his seasonal offerings as well.
What role does design play in these new stores?
Something I’ve always been interested in is how do you uplift people through good design. And through the privilege of working with Liz Mueller and her team, I’ve learned how she creates an incredible backdrop, one that celebrates and enhances the brand by showcasingbeautiful products. At Princi, this backdrop creates a natural space for the commessa to interact with the customer and share the story behind each item in the pastry case. Through this connection, the customer is uplifted and energized by its ingredients and beauty. Their taste buds fire up in anticipation! In these bakeries, with so many beautiful options to choose from, the product is chosen just for you.
How are you working together with Rocco Princi to create these new stores?
We’ve gone to great lengths to source the freshest ingredients and train the chefs in Rocco’s way of baking, preparation, commitment to freshness and sourcing the highest-quality ingredients. Rocco knows intuitively how to make the perfect cornetti and the perfect pizza. He started baking in Milan in 1985, so it’s a story he knows by heart. He takes great pride in his commitment to this craft.
What kind of experience are Princi partners creating in Princi stores?
When you walk into any Princi kitchen, you will experience Rocco’s story through his recipes, his commitment to quality and passion for the craft. It’s a story that has traveled with him across countries and generations, across the kitchen—from the oven to the display case, and across the counter—from partner to customer. The pride we take in this commitment to quality, freshness and craft is a story worth sharing. And it fits so beautifully with Starbucks—where we’ve been almost obsessed to the point of unreasonableness with sourcing, roasting and delivery of high-quality coffee.
What can we expect to experience in Seattle Princi?
The Seattle location is incredible. It’s located at the intersection of Seattle’s growing business district, South Lake Union, just a few blocks from Seattle’s oldest park, Denny Park, where people can go to enjoy a break from work or meet with friends. The vast majority of what you’ll see and enjoy at 9th and Westlake is the same array of products you’ll experience in Milan—a gastronomic feast!
What’s been the highlight of this process for you so far?
To me, both journeys for Starbucks started with Howard in Milan. The first time he experienced an espresso bar and the first time he experienced Princi food both happened in Milan. It’s an amazing coincidence. Partners from across the company and across the country have come together to bring this experience to life. I’m excited and, above all, incredibly proud to share Princi with Seattle today and Chicago and NYC later this year.