How long does the perfect dinner last? At the Quirinale forty-five minutes, not more or less. It is a finely tuned machine which performs the dinner service - calmly and concentrated. Obviously thoroughly planned and prepared in order to execute in perfection. In the new book by Lorenza Scalisi - Tutti i piatti dei Presidenti she takes a behind the Scenes look of the Cuisine of the Quirinale (just published by L'ippocampo). She provides an overview of the different menus and dishes of all Italian Presidents. Thirty years of recipes, stories and anecdotes in the kitchens of Palazzo del Quirinale. A book planned and developed in conjunction with the chef of the Quirinale Cuisine Fabrizio Boca. In November 2017, the Quirinale called her to attend, together with photographer Chiara Cadeddu, her first event there. Since then, every time a business visit, an official or a state visit (the latter is the most prestigious occasion) was planned for the palace, she would be called to observe and document everything. What a great privilege and opportunity!
Every single dinner service is perfectly designed, from the shopping list to the preparation of the menu (which must never be repeated), from the mise en place to the ironing of meters and meters of tablecloths used to set up the tables. Who takes care of everything? Fabrizio Boca, the chef who entered the kitchens of the Quirinale at a very young age and never left it, and Domenico Santamaria, food & beverage manager who coordinates all hospitality services and receptions: next to them, however, there are waiters, sommeliers. A kitchen brigade with many young people, often from hotel establishments throughout Italy and who have started working here thanks to internships, "all very proud to do that job" says Lorenza Scalisi again "despite the fatigue and stress of a day that begins at seven in the morning ».
But how is an event born? Normally, they start a couple of weeks in advance, when the confirmation (and the guest list) arrives from the ceremonial service. Planning includes the menu, any allergies or intolerances, simple preferences or special diets. Then, based on the number of guests, the most suitable room is chosen: one of the most sought-after is the one housed in the Torrino, the highest part of the building that offers a magnificent view across Rome. This room is also the most low-key room of all - not frescoed nor decorated with gold, mirrors and stuccoes. Obviously, the mise en place must be truly impeccable, with the tablecloths ironed to perfection, the silver mats carefully polished and placed exactly three fingers from the edge of the table.; glasses, cutlery, napkins, menus bordered by a cord with the colors of the Italian flag and that of the visiting country. And then there are the flowers, and those are provided by Mauro Piacentini, manager of the Quirinale gardens.
And what is the menu at the Quirinale? The ingredients are simple and fresh, and of course of the great Italian classics: raw ham arrives then from Friuli Venezia Giulia, pasta from Molise, meats from Piedmont, cheeses and oil from Lazio, flour from Veneto, beans from Umbria, salt from Emilia Romagna, tomatoes from Campania, while many of the vegetables are grown in the vegetable garden of the presidential estate of Castelporziano, about thirty kilometers from the city center. Simplicity is also the basis of the recipes (the book reports some of them: for example, tonnarelli of kamut with white ragù were served to Barak and Michelle Obama), in the best tradition of Italian cuisine and the Mediterranean diet. But of course a former president Sandro Pertini loved spaghetti with tomato sauce above all! Small curiosity: the service at the Quirinale is strictly French - Service à la française is the practice of serving various dishes of meal at the same time, with the diners helping themselves from the serving dishes.
When Sergio Mattarella - the current Italian President - hosted the leaders at the Quirinale Palace last year October, they feasted on salmon and sea bass. Prince Charles joined Prime Minister Boris Johnson, US President Joe Biden and other world leaders at the gala dinner that evening to mark the end of a G20 summit. Mr Biden was seated next to the Italian President and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen - all at the head of the table with Mr Mattarella.
French President Emmanuel Macron meanwhile was seated next to Biden's wife Jill on one side, while Mr Johnson was in one of the far corners from where the Italian President was seated. Mr Johnson's wife - Carrie - was also in attendance. Their dinner menu included marinated salmon, risotto with pumpkin and white truffle, and sea bass, with a tangerine cream dessert.