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House Guest: Martina Casonato

We spent some time with Martina Casonato, founder of the Venetian Pantry, discussing her cherished childhood memories in Italy, the renovation of her Victorian house, and the indispensable pantry staple she can't do without.
House Guest: Martina Casonato
House Guest: Martina Casonato

With summer finally here, our thoughts turn to Aperol spritz, al-fresco dining, and gatherings with friends and family that extend well into the balmy night. It's the perfect season to sit down with London-based creative Martina Casonato and delve into her memories from childhood in Italy, revealing how these early experiences ignited her enduring love for food.

Trained as a graphic designer, Martina’s passion for capturing food, interiors, and travel was deeply rooted in her lifelong affinity for photography. A pivotal moment during the pandemic prompted her to launch The Venetian Pantry, inspired by her well-stocked walk-in pantry and the harmonious blend of contemporary and antique elements in her painstakingly renovated Victorian home in North London.

Whether discussing the importance of pantry essentials, the joy of summer dining, or detailing her ideal dinner party menu, Martina’s reflections offer a rich tapestry of creativity, tradition, and a deep appreciation for life’s finer details.

Could you paint us a picture of a cherished food memory from your childhood in Italy?
It's funny because the first vivid memory I have is food-related, though not a particularly glamorous one. I recall sitting in a high chair at around 3 or 4 years old, with my dad feeding me chips. Those golden nuggets of fried bliss must have blown my little mind! To this day, I still think nothing is tastier than a good chip (I know, how very British of me!).

I owe my love of food to my dad, the true gourmand of our family. While my mum doesn't share the same passion for cooking, she does have a couple of standout dishes. Family Sundays usually revolved around my dad's cooking, like his signature slow-cooked pork ribs over the open fireplace. On my mother's side, Grandma Lina was also an exceptional cook, passing down her skills from her mother Adele, who owned an Osteria. Every Carnevale, Grandma would make us a mountain of frittelle, a traditional Venetian sweet typical of that time of year.

You’ve been living in London for several years. What drew you to East London and what is it you love about the neighbourhood?
I've always lived in East London. Before moving here, my husband Joe and I rented a one-bedroom flat in Shoreditch for about 8 years. Some friends lived in Stoke Newington, which introduced me to this neighbourhood. It's a leafy, community-minded residential area with plenty of independent shops, cafes, and restaurants. It's very well-connected to the centre, but truth be told, we rarely feel the need to leave – everything we need is right on our doorstep, including an authentic Italian deli and a greengrocer stocked with even the obscure radicchio variety from my hometown!

You originally trained as a graphic designer. Who or what was it that initially sparked your passion to document your love for food, interiors, and travel?
Photography has always been a passion of mine, dating back to my childhood when I would bring a camera on school trips, nights out in college, and holidays as an adult. As I grew older, my cameras upgraded but the habit persisted. The pandemic was a turning point—I had recently left my graphic design job to focus on our house renovation. Suddenly, with ample time and a newly renovated home, I launched The Venetian Pantry during the second lockdown, inspired by Joe's encouragement. It has since evolved to be a space where all of my passions can finally co-exist.

Are there specific sources or experiences that consistently spark your imagination and drive your artistic vision?
Nothing ignites my creativity like travelling and exploring new places. Many details in my home draw inspiration from my travel experiences, particularly restaurant and hospitality designs that have profoundly influenced me. For instance, the arched doors in my loft were inspired by the Hotel des Grandes Boulevards, my favourite hotel in Paris, while my charming pink powder room takes cues from Jolene, a beloved neighbourhood restaurant. Naturally, Italy remains my greatest muse!

You’ve widely documented the journey of renovating a Victorian house, and in particular the creation of your walk-in pantry. What inspired its design and what came first, the design of the kitchen or the pantry?
I had dreamed of a walk-in pantry for years, so it became the cornerstone of our kitchen layout. The pantry design blends various inspirations, with the doors inspired by a bakery shop front in Paris. Once we established the pantry’s position, it made sense to place the main prep area in front of it, rotating the kitchen island 90 degrees from the main kitchen line instead of the traditional parallel setup. This layout was the best decision, creating a sociable space where I can look out to the garden and chat with guests in the dining room while prepping food.

What pantry staple is an absolute essential for you? Something you can’t live without and always ensure is on hand.
This is a tough one! I always see the pantry as the place for kitchen essentials, much more than the fridge. This includes grains, pasta, flour, nuts, and canned foods. For guests, I make sure to have ready-to-serve snacks like olives, breadsticks, and biscuits on hand. Interestingly, what I truly cherish are the non-essentials: a collection of unique flavoured salts and honeys, and an ever-growing variety of teas and herbal infusions. I've amassed quite a collection, but one thing is for sure—I'll never be without tea, which feels very British of me!

Is there an object within your space that holds special significance or a meaningful story?
One of my favourite pieces is a 19th-century French nude portrait hanging in our ensuite bathroom. I discovered it in an antique shop in Rye, a charming coastal town in England, and instantly fell for its magnetic presence—the way the figure is lit and its almost photographic quality. The price tag was steep, more than I'd ever spent on a decorative object before or since. Yet, I couldn't resist! After negotiating, I made it my first art investment. Having it in the bathroom, where we are most vulnerable, serves as a daily reminder to embrace my body with all its imperfections.

With the warmer months approaching, what's your preferred style for setting the table?
Summer dining means outdoor dining to me! We love to host in the garden. It is usually quite an informal affair – a linen tablecloth to hide the cheap & cheerful foldable table, some flowers cut straight from the garden, big salads, and lots of appetisers!

What would your perfect dinner party look like? And what’s on the menu?
For the perfect dinner party, it's all about the company for me. We love hosting friends and usually cap off the meal with board games, which are perfect for any afternoon or evening. Our menu varies with the seasons: hearty dishes such as freshly made pasta or comforting roasts in winter, and light salads and crostini in summer. Since I don't drink, I always make sure to offer non-alcoholic cocktails. Desserts aren't my strong suit, but my family's Tiramisù never fails to impress!

What’s your favourite piece in the Monoware collection?
I have a soft spot for hand-made ceramics, and the 5 piece nestling bowl set is just stunning. I also really love the everyday mug – it has a very considerate, satisfying shape that makes it a joy to use!

What's your favourite spot in London for a special meal?
It has to be Perilla, our favourite neighbourhood restaurant. Stellar food, intimate and cosy atmosphere, and gorgeous interiors!

Your favourite cuisine?
Hard to pick only one! Aside from Italian, of course, I'd say Japanese.

Best song/album for a dinner party?
Any album from Khruangbin. They are my go-to band for ambient music, they have the coolest, sexiest, smoothest sound! 


Follow Martina Casonato @thevenetianpantry

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