Milan’s Iconic Caffè Cova Set To Open In Dubai

BY Ayesha Shaikh / Jul 25 2017 / 15:02 PM

Cova CEO Paola Faccioli speaks with Ayesha Shaikh about the famed Italian café’s plans to foray into the Middle East, its rich heritage and recipe for success

Milan’s Iconic Caffè Cova Set To Open In Dubai
An interior view of Cova Milan

Pasticceria Cova, one of Italy’s oldest and most beloved coffeehouses that turned 200 this year (you read that right), is slated to open doors in Dubai by end of the year. This glorious pasticceria, known for its history, heritage and heroic Italian flavours, will be located in The Dubai Mall, an unsurprising choice given its location back in Milan’s swanky fashion district, Via Montenapoleone, aka a tourist and luxury shopper’s paradise.

Think about sipping an espresso and relishing the sweetness of a panettone in a cool, vintage setting, while taking in stunning views of the dancing fountain at Dubai Mall – Cova will offer a touch of Italy to the mall. “I think it’s an amazing location and we’ve been waiting for this,” says Cova CEO Paola Faccioli, whose family has owned the brand since the early 1980s. “There can’t be a nicer location at the moment.”

Cova panettone

Faccioli feels the café’s inherent lean towards luxury makes it the perfect fit for Dubai. “Let’s just say, Dubai’s taste in luxury is very similar to ours. Dubai appreciates luxury as a way of life, not in terms of money and riches but something that goes beyond,” she adds. “The GCC adores luxury, style and quality, and being in a nice surrounding. I think this part of the world is ready to have a concept like the one we have in Milano,” she says of Cova, which already boasts franchises in some of the trendiest cities across the Asia Pacific region, including Hong Kong, Shanghai and Tokyo. It’s also set to open in Monte Carlo next month and in Beijing and Taipei later this year.

Cova Milano regularly plays host to a string of guests, even luminaries, from Dubai and the GCC at large, most of whom Faccioli has personally come to know. “They’re among our best customers. We have a lot of customers who come and order chocolates for weddings or for some other special occasion,” she says. “Or they come just to sit down and have a nice coffee, light lunch, or to see or be seen.”

Cova cappuccino

Just like its counterpart in Milan, the café in Dubai will feature an elaborate but unfussy interior, its signature long bar counter, parquet flooring, grand crystal chandeliers, plush, velvet banquettes, all adding to its grand Italian ambiance. Cova and Emaar Properties have joined forces for the Dubai space with Faccioli at the helm of affairs, ensuring its façade and interior are in line with the café’s signature aesthetic. 

The café will also feature a delicious mix of sweets and savouries that are available at Cova internationally. Faccioli recommends the signature cappuccino, Sacher, a decadent dark chocolate cake, creamy risotto that she says is a “Milanese masterpiece,” pralines, and, of course, the famous panettone. Staff at all Cova franchises undergoes rigorous training in Italy, followed by a detailed check on SOPs and recipes, which will also be the case for Dubai.

Cova's Sacher chocolate cake

Faccioli is involved in all aspects of the brand along with her sister Daniela. “My sister takes care of operation, production, training abroad for locations we have in Asia and hopefully, very soon in Dubai,” she adds. “I'm managing the existing team and trying to enlarge it.” In 2013, Cova was acquired by French conglomerate LVMH. “I’m very proud to be part of this wonderful group because we’re now a bigger family.” She underlines how important it is to stay true to their brand. “It’s extremely important to maintain our DNA, tradition and concept and to have the possibility of expanding by having synergy with a big group.”

As part of its 200 year celebrations, the café in Milan underwent three months of renovation this January. Faccioli has been careful with the restoration process, making slight tweaks to ensure the café retains its original flair with full support from LVMH. She shows great reverence for Cova’s Italian heritage; its aristocratic charm and vintage design are still intact resonating with modern-day shoppers and tourists just as they once appealed to the literati and patriots who frequented the café at the time of the Italian Risorgimento. “When things have a soul, they don't die,” says Faccioli.

Cova CEO Paola Faccioli

“We’ve had the chance to expand the shop and also have a nice garden just next to our space. But we didn’t change the concept or the furniture, we didn’t change anything. We just refreshed the store, trying to keep it exactly the same,” Faccioli shares. She calls this “conservative refreshment.”

And that’s just how guests like the Cova they’ve visited generation after generation. “When we closed down for renovation, we had a lot of customers passing by who would say, ‘What are you doing! Don’t change, please,’” and this shows that everyone has some kind of attachment to the café. Customers have made Cova a family affair. They come with their grandmothers and their aunts. It gives you an idea that it’s really a magical brand.”

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