Rizzoli Bookstore

When I first heard about Rizzoli on the Upper East Side I wondered if it would capture that same feeling as the bookstores in Italy.

There’s something special about bookstores in Italy. The paper feels heavier, the design of every book is measured, carefully considered, a focus on aesthetic beauty and practicality. One of my favorite books I purchased has one inch margins on the sides — the perfect place to stash your thumbs without encroaching on the text.

I lived in Italy mostly to study Italian, so I spent a lot of time in these bookstores, looking through title after title, flipping books open to see how much I could understand. Usually I wouldn’t understand more than a word or two, so back on the shelf that particular title would go. “I’ll come back,” I would say to myself, as my thoughts would wander to the picture books across the room.

I eventually discovered Ennio Flaiano, a contemporary of Fellini whose words are clear and crisp, a perfect match for my minimalist literary tastes. His words are beautifully contained in a small book with linen-textured covers and simple black text, a part of the Piccolo Biblioteca collection.

These would be my souvenirs from Italy, small tomes I could work my way through, bit by bit. On the plane, in a cafe, or while I waited in the train station. I picked up titles by Sciascia and Manganelli, a translation of D. H. Lawrence.

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Rizzoli is a perfect blend of that carefully constructed literary world I was introduced to in Italy, but it’s done up in an equally charming Upper East Side way, with a grand chandelier, wood panelizing, and a lush green carpet that seems more fitting a fancy hotel than a bookstore. Just around the corner from Fifth Avenue and the glamorous shopping at Bergdorfs, Bendels, and Barneys, the interior architecture is over the top and cozy at once.

There’s a great selection of Italian, French, and Spanish language books, so if you’re looking for foreign titles, this would be the place to go. (I was a little more than excited when I found a new-to-me title from Flaiano.) A wide selection of photography and art books are also here, and the titles are varied and the production qualities are top notch — looking for something unique and special, this would be the place to go. There are also lots of English titles to choose from, as well as a nice periodical section, including some lush fashion and art publications I haven’t found elsewhere in the city.

This felt like the American cousin of Daunt Books in London and Shakespeare & Co. in Paris.

Jeff Smith

Jeff started in photography and short format video, and he's been at the forefront of the web tv movement. He’s worked on haute couture shoots in Paris, shot street style in Milan, and is currently developing a steady roster of beauty, fashion, and digital clients in NYC.