Maurizio Lai Architects Designs Michelin-Starred Restaurant

Varying textures of porphyry stone—from split to brushed—form an angular arch that leads into the restaurant’s main dining room. Photography by Andrea Martiradonna.

For a restaurant to earn a Michelin Star, reviewers focus on quality products, mastery of technique, and personality, among others. At IYO Aalto, the only Japanese restaurant in Italy to be awarded a Michelin star, these criteria apply to the cuisine as much as they apply to the restaurant’s contemporary design, courtesy of Maurizio Lai Architects.

A set of movable sliding walls in Canaletto walnut act as Brise Soleil and allow for daylight to be filtered into the space according to the restaurant’s needs. Photography courtesy of IYO Aalto.

“Elements that could be traced back to Japanese aesthetics, if we can say so, have always belonged to my design philosophy,” says Maurizio Lai, who drew inspiration from Japan’s design sensibility to create a timeless interior where natural materials like walnut, porphyry stone, brass, and leather mix with smoked mirrors, modular glass shelving holding ancient Sake barrels, and custom-made furniture by Poliform Contract.

The walnut tables are punctuated by brass swallow-tail inlays and a gray porphyry swivel plate at the center. Photography by Andrea Martiradonna.
A delicate light installation and backlit float glass plates welcome visitors inside a dreamlike entrance dressed in walnut and porphyry stone. Photography by Andrea Martiradonna.
This wall-mounted, stainless steel wine cellar can accommodate up to 1,600 bottles; at 11.5 x 33 feet, it is one of the largest ever made. Photography by Andrea Martiradonna.
In the restrooms, luminous vertical and horizontal lines punctuate a fully mirrored space where polished floors and ceilings made with recycled glass grit slabs are reflected ad infinitum. Photography by Andrea Martiradonna.
The intimate, eight-seater sushi counter features a Canaletto walnut countertop and leather seat barstools produced by Poliform Contract. Photography by Andrea Martiradonna.
Custom-made Poliform chairs furnish the restaurant's main dining room. Photography by Andrea Martiradonna.

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