Riccardo Illy is president of both Illy, his family’s coffee-making company, and the Assembly of European Regions, created in 1985 to give voice to the continent’s provinces and generate a forum for mutual cultural insight.
“Ideally I’d like my wife to prepare my last meal. She once invented a dish of rice and bone marrow just for me that was wonderful, but she hasn’t repeated it since. Failing that, I’d book myself a table at Al Bagatto where they serve uncomplicated Triestan seafood. I love Trieste because it’s such a melting pot of cultures – the majority of the population is made up of second- or third-generation families of Austrian, Czech, Croatian and Slovenian descent.
Grandfather Illy was Hungarian and my grandmother was half Irish, half Triestan; my mother’s parents were Croatian. Father’s first language was German so we learnt German and Italian – his nickname for me was Sonnenschein. I learnt English as a ski instructor in Aviano in the Pordenone province, where many English-speaking skiers ended up in my class. After one season on the slopes, I started at Illy, working my way up from the bottom.
I had never considered a career in politics until my 1993 nomination as mayor of Trieste, which I won when I was ceo of the family business. Only after the election did I discover that my great uncle had been a podestà, a chief magistrate in Rovinj, so maybe it’s in the blood. I’ve divided my time between business and politics ever since. From the moment I began working for Illy the number of people I devote my time and skills to has increased: 150 workers grew to 500, and as mayor I had a city of 210,000 to answer to.
Now, as President of the Assembly of European Regions, my main objective is to find a means of exploiting Europe’s competitive advantage, which is diversity, something I understand from being Triestan. Single states are in no position to compete with emergent global players like China and India, so if we begin at grassroots level with the regions, we can do much to facilitate unity in order to become more competitive globally.
My dream would be to transform the EU into a confederation, for it to become the most competitive economy in the world thanks to cultural and regional diversity. Then I could die a happy man.”
Located to the west of Piazza Unità dell’Italia on Via Luigi Cordona, a block away from the Stazione Marittima, Al Bagatto has been serving Triestinos since 1966. Eleonora and Giordano Marussi turned the tiny restaurant into the port’s most loved maritime tavern, serving simple seafood and pouring wine from the rustic botti di rovere, a giant 120-litre barrel. Today the restaurant is run by Gianni, the son of the original owners, who took over from his parents in 1978. He has transformed the small osteria into the city’s most sought-after table, “Along with my son Roberto, ‘El Direttor’, and chef Giorgio Esposito, we intend to carry on the great name of Al Bagatto and provide Triestinos with the best seafood cuisine,” says Marussi.
Via L. Cadorna, 7, 34100-Trieste, Italy
+ 39 040 301771
Riccardo Illy’s last meal
Pappardelle con ragout di branzino (Pappardelle in sea bass sauce)
Aragosta di thermador (Lobster thermador)
Panna cotta con frutti di bosco (Panna cotta with forest fruits)
Brut Kante Spumante, Edi Kante Carso