Milan | Seats 28

Well, you know exactly how many friends to round up to fill this little place in the Navigli neighbourhood of Milan, abuzz with nightlife every day of the week. But there’s more to 28 Posti than its diminutive size and finely-honed cuisine by Calabrian chef Caterina Malerba. The restaurant, which opened last April just in time for Design Week 2013, was designed by architect Francesco Faccin – and fitted out by inmates of nearby Bollate prison.

Partner in the project was nonprofit association Liveinslums in the persons of its three founders Gaetano BerniMaria Luisa Daglia and Silvia Orazi, who arranged for furnishings designed by Faccin to be made from recycled timber in the penitentiary’s carpentry workshop under the guidance of master cabinetmaker Giuseppe Filippini. Other prisoners allowed to work ‘outside the fence’ made up the construction team. So the bantam eatery is also a kind of  showcase for the creations of the prison woodworkers, aiming to attract other buyers and indeed other architects and designers in search of artisan producers.

The interiors are notable for state-of-the-art exposed brickwork, peeling plaster and industrial-style concrete flooring as well as the all-wooden fixtures and fittings with the Bollate stamp on them. The menureveals Caterina‘s predilection for fish but there are also meaty mains and vegetarian options, all preferably organic and zero-kilometre. She makes her own breads. When you pop in to see for yourself (28 Postiopens every day but evenings only), check out the pendant lampshades too, made in Colombia from reused plastic bottles and textiles, designed by Alvaro Catalàn de Ocòn.