Just south of Naples, Italy, at the foot of Mount Vesuvius, and east of the small city of Torre del Greco, acres and acres of floral farmland blaze a path of vibrant color through the surrounding greenery. The picturesque tract is presided over by 66-year-old agronomist Renato Faraone Mennella. On any given day, one might find him cruising through town in a vintage Alfa Romeo—in the Sixties, it was a Ferrari—or sailing to the nearby island of Capri on Allegra, his slick wooden Riva boat. That is, when he’s not busy crossbreeding flowers, mixing this gene with that one like a mad scientist, on the land that’s been in his family since the 1800s.
Faraone Mennella also happens to be the father of jeweler Roberto Faraone Mennella, whose company Faraone Mennella is known for its glam gold cuffs and cabochon baubles. But beginning this fall Roberto and his business partner, Amedeo Scognamiglio, will be running a second enterprise from their East 57th Street atelier: Manhattan’s newest high-end florist. It’s no wonder, then, that the two spend considerable time talking about, and romancing, the elder Faraone Mennella. Scognamiglio even likens him to Gianni Agnelli and dubs him a latter-day Lorenzo de’ Medici, marveling at the art-meets-science nature of his discipline. “You go with Renato to the fields in the morning,” says Scognamiglio, “and it’s like a mattress of flowers, intense colors in an organized way. He shows his flowers and he talks and walks—you just follow him. He speaks about flowers like we do about jewelry.” Recognizing his own infatuation, Scognamiglio jokes, “I’m more of a son than Roberto is.”
That assertion elicits no argument from the actual son. “They look more the same,” the younger Faraone Mennella responds with a laugh. In fact, if left up to him, the pair’s latest endeavor, named Faraone Mennella Fiori (fiori means “flowers” in Italian), might never have happened. It took Scognamiglio to do the convincing. “Roberto’s dad came to visit, and we were in Takashimaya Floral Boutique,” recalls Scognamiglio. “We always send flowers to everyone from [that store]. So we were ordering, and he said, ‘Oh, my God. You send flowers?’ It’s like us seeing him going to Tiffany’s to shop for jewelry.” So Padre put forth a proposal: Use his buds and brand them under the company moniker. “Roberto was like, ‘No, no, Dad, shut up’—typical father and son,” Scognamiglio remembers. “It was me who was like, ‘Oh, really?’” he says, feigning an Austin Powers–like grimace, one eyebrow arched exaggeratedly high while a hand leisurely strokes an imaginary goatee. “It makes sense. Why not have our own personalized bouquets like you have personalized note cards?” And their beloved Takashimaya hasn’t been left out of the equation; Faraone Mennella Fiori, which offers both cut flowers and plants in specially designed FM vases and pots, will bow at the Fifth Avenue store in October.