Friday, January 09, 2009

IACP Italian Section Third Annual Autumn Luncheon

Florence, Italy, November 2008

For IACP members scattered around Italy, our annual get-together is a happy reward at the end of the busy tourism season. This year, we met in Florence near the San Lorenzo market and the Medici Chapel, at the Osteria Cipolla Rossa, owned by a butcher from the central market and two talented chefs from respected Tuscan restaurants.

After a brief welcome statement, Elizabeth Wholey read members’ tributes to Maria Teresa Berdondini, Italy Country Co-Coordinator with Elizabeth for the past two years, who died in August after a long illness.

Following the announcement of Sonia Di Centa as the new Country Coordinator, which was met with enthusiasm, the seventeen guests introduced themselves and brought the rest of us up to date on their activities.

And then we proceeded to chiacchierare, to chat the afternoon away, while being served a series of delicious and creative small plates.

Over time, we have learned some rules for making a success of this event. (Note: It takes a few tries to build up the momentum and for people to learn that this is something not to be missed.)

Our Recipe for Success:

First and foremost, great food! Pick an interesting location, a popular city that is fun to visit, and a restaurant near the train station. Keep the price affordable. Have a member in that city choose a venue that will be appropriate for an afternoon gathering. (Judy Witts selected it this year.) Enlist that person to help get the group together, making contact with friends and inviting family members and interested non-IACP members, as well. We also put out the word to the IACP board and we welcome guests from outside of Italy. This year we were joined by Dede Wilson and her husband, Dave, from Amherst, Massachusetts, who happened to be in Tuscany at the time. If possible, we provide lodgings or arrange for a discount at a hotel. Lucy Luhan generously offered her Villa Lucia near Lucca for out-of-towners.

We always have our luncheon at the same time every year, in late November after the olive harvest, a date people can plan around, and we send out the invitations well in advance. In 2006 the location was a Tuscan villa, and in 2007 it was held in Rome at a beautiful rooftop garden restaurant, the Hotel Mediterraneo, owned by the family of IACP member, Jo Bettoja.

We emphasize that this is a relaxed, convivial get-together, not an IACP membership drive, though we do have applications available and some of our guests have signed up.

Over the years, new friendships as well as joint ventures have been formed, and we always come away full of good food, wine and inspiration.

If you are in Italy at the end of November, 2009, you are invited to join us.

Elizabeth Wholey

Chair, Culinary Tourism Committee

Umbertide, Umbria, Italy

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