The Medici exhibition opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York amidst the pandemic in June of this year. With fingers crossed, a trio of top Italian organizations hoped that by the time the exhibit closed in mid-October, they could host a gala dinner and invite dignitaries from Italy to join them in a celebration of the storied Medici family dynasty.
International travel, however, remained difficult once the time came. Even so, that didn’t deter the Italian General Consulate in New York, the Italian Trade Agency and the Italian Cultural Institute from moving forward with its plan to celebrate the exhibit, as well as the culture and cuisine of Italy.
On Thursday night, the organizations brought together an intimate group of around 100 guests for a black-tie dinner party at Cipriani 42nd Street.
The gala, among the first full-on events in the city in more than 18 months, was called Italian Cuisine and Its Roots in the Era of the Medicis.
“We wanted to celebrate New York’s rebirth and the Met exhibit with a great event — an event in which, in the best Italian tradition, food and culture are presented at the highest level, celebrating our county’s art of living,” said Fabrizio Di Michele, consul general.
While the guest list may not have been what they had originally envisioned, the select group of government officials, journalists, academics and business executives were nonetheless treated to an exquisitely executed evening of Renaissance-inspired ambience and dining, including an exhibit in the center of the floor with a cornucopia of some of Italy’s most famous foodstuffs, from salami and cheese to olive oil.
Professor Fabio Finotti, director of the Italian Cultural Institute of New York, said the gala dinner on the roots of Italian cuisine was the culmination of three days of seminars focused on the Medici era, which were “dedicated to art and restoration, alchemy and poisons, cuisine, the art of the table and ‘Galateo’ [rules of behavior].”
He also spoke of some of the most radical inventions from the Italian Renaissance period, including paperback books and forks, the latter of which were initially viewed with skepticism and resulted in more food being left on the tables than in the mouths of diners, he said.
Antonino Laspina, director of the Italian Trade Agency in New York, said the evening was intended to “represent a journey through time, starting from the Renaissance, the era that marked the beginning of the success of Made in Italy cuisine and gastronomy, based primarily on the excellence and variety of and respect for the ingredients. An era that also represented the dawn of the Italian lifestyle.”