The importance of design in gastronomy, explained by We Are Ona

At the crossroads of fine cuisine and scenography, Luca Pronzato’s studio reimagines temporary dining as a total experience infused with taste, space, and, above all, objects.

Ona, in Catalan, means ‘wave’. An overwhelming wave that, in Luca Pronzato’s vision, a sommelier and cultural agitator of the transalpine gastronomic experience, leads him to reimagine the time spent at the table as a multisensory experience, not only involving the palate but also the atmosphere. Founded by Pronzato in 2019, We Are Ona connects chefs, designers, and creatives to create temporary events. The combination of culinary research and aesthetics seems to have filled a void, and today it captivates both luxury brands and international cultural institutions.

“The culinary experience is not just about the chef, the kitchen, and the service, but also the mood. The dining room of a restaurant should inspire us, besides making us feel good”, he tells us from his studio in Paris, an old taxidermist’s workshop transformed into a bright open space. Supported by about twenty collaborators, Pronzato surrounds himself with books and kitchen items as well as iconic furniture design classics, including Flos, Artemide, E15, and USM. Embracing the polysemy of the word ‘taste’, this former collaborator of Noma, the restaurant by René Redzepi long considered by critics as the best in the world and now converted to the pop-up experience, seems to understand and savor the logic of both.

The culinary experience is not just about the chef, the kitchen, and the service, but also the mood. The dining room of a restaurant should inspire us, besides making us feel good.

Luca Pronzato

Pop-up made in Paris , guest chef Thomas Graham. Photo ilyafoodstories

For every pop-up project created, We Are Ona seeks a unique and unrepeatable formula. It all starts with the sense of ‘time and place’ and the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi. In Pronzato’s approach, they are central to shaping the specific identity of each event. The search for the location is the first step in determining what the gastronomic experience will be inspired by. However, even though the result is always different, the execution process remains the same. The ephemeral nature of the events allows no room for improvisation. Continuous rendering of the space and the table is the tool used to create and fuel the conversation with the client. This is complemented by scouting different creative resources to create custom-designed furniture or accessories, or through careful mixing of contemporary collections and vintage items, depending on the case. This extensive preparation process can take up to a year for more complex projects.

The favorable growth experienced by We Are Ona, increasingly tangible with the opening of branches in the United States and Milan, is a good indicator of how successful the formula is. Without compromising on the culinary aspect, it leverages storytelling and the exceptional nature of the events as key ingredients to foster a sense of participation. It takes diners out of the routine of traditional restaurants, no matter how excellent they may be, in search of a constant renewal of wonder. 

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