Divine Dinner at the home of Marina Calamai and Alessandro Pacchiani
The Divine Dinners by Cookware Couture takes us on a journey into the private homes of legendary Florentines where we give our hosts the opportunity to Enjoy The Taste Of Luxury.
March 28 2018
Today’s Renaissance Woman
There never seems to be a shortage of artistic pursuit in Florence with its prevalent ethos and culture to lend inspiration. This month’s Divine Dinner created by Cookware Couture was hosted by accomplished artist Marina Calamai, a life-long resident of the Santo Spirito neighbourhood in the bohemian Oltrarno district, an area famous for its artists, artisans and their botteghe (workshops) ongoing since Renaissance times. Just a stone’s throw from her current home with husband Alessandro Pacchiani, Marina grew up in the XV century Palazzo Guicciardini, her family’s namesake and home for several generations, and currently where her artist’s studio perches high above with its glorious views over Florence. “I think of Florence as my city of artists,” Marina shares. “When I was ten years old, you would see so many artisans working in the streets outside of their botteghe. Everyone was creating.”
Upon entering their home, the eye travels to Marina’s many artistic creations interspersed between their antiques and contemporary art collection. Her creative exploration is unhindered as can be witnessed by the varying styles of imaginative expression on the walls, on her cleverly crafted tables with her latest florin-coin themed table mats, and on the hands and necks of some of the female guests displaying her jewellery. Her fearless inventive curiosity is admirable.
To add to the sparkle of the Divine Dinner, the welcoming aperitivo included all things champagne and showcased Marina’s gilded bronze collection of jewellery that she designed using champagne tops as a primary theme. "I am an addict”, Marina jokingly smiles when asked about her initial inspiration. “The liquid is so light and alive and its bubbles are inebriante.” As we watched the bubbles float in six exact geometric formations that the marvellous Italesse champagne glasses elicit, one couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of intoxicating movement.
At the call to dinner, the dining room glowed with the abundance of flickering candles on the hanging candelabra overhead, the walls decorated with Marina’s varying pieces of artwork and the gleaming Cookware Couture silver pots lying in wait on the table with their elegant sheen. Upon a closer inspection of the table, which is another one of Marina’s creations, she has skilfully used a map of the world to construct its surface. Immediately, conversation of travel ensues. “It is a table of dreams. Within your fantasy, you can move with your dreams to where you want to go in your imagination and also to where you have travelled,” illuminates Marina. This sort of tangible interaction with art is exactly the sort of accessibility that she seeks from the viewer – including as many senses as possible to engage in the experience.
As the introductions at the table were made and the menu of seasonal tastes was browsed, there was no doubt that this was to be an especially Florentine inspired dinner. The featured chef of the evening, Simone di Massa, grew up in San Frediano, another historical neighbourhood of artisans which borders Santo Spirito. Every delectable dish prepared was created using different pieces from the Cookware Couture collection: fresh pea flan made in the Verdura with its accompanying zafferano cream made in the Piccolina, raw fava bean and pecorino salad mixed and served at table in the Casseroula, tagliatelle prepared in the Bollito with fresh asparagus and aged parmigiano cooked in the Risottiera, succulent cubed beef ossobuco-style slow cooked in the Pesce and its accompanying Tuscan beans in tomato sauce made in the Casseroula, and a delicate chocolate torte cooked in the Tegamino. To enhance the Cookware Couture experience, guests were fortunate enough to have been offered the prescribed comparison taste test of the pasta course cooked within both the silver and stainless-steel. Nods of approval were noted around the table as all the wonderful properties of cooking with silver were explained and the tasting got underway. “I am very inspired by Cookware Couture,” offers Marina. “I love how they are committed to engage our sense of taste. And I love how they have taken inspiration and knowledge from the Renaissance -- in their design and hand-crafted production -- to benefit us today.”
As the conversation flowed between courses, it was evident that one is never far from the imaginative ethos of Florence and its Renaissance values, especially of interweaving the past, present and future – a theme that is held very dear to the founders of Cookware Couture and which their collection embraces. At one end of the table was Tessa Castellano, who has been working on the current restoration of the famous Vasari altar piece representing Christ Meeting Veronica on the Way to Calvary in the Cathedral of Santa Croce. Across from her sat Maria Sole Fantacci, a Florentine architect and designer who works on interior restorations. Another guest, Paola Menacarelli, a Gambero Rosso writer of many years, who aside from reviewing restaurants in Italy, is busy organising the upcoming Florence Cocktail Week in May, her brainchild now in its third year, which showcases Florence’s best mixologists and revives cocktail enthusiasm in a city that gave birth to the most famous of Italian drinks --the negroni-- and gives homage to the aperitivo, the most Italian of rituals.
During the course of the dinner, Chef Simone visited the table to check on the guests, adding that cooking in the silver had been a tremendous experience for him because of its intrinsic conductivity. “If the tastes aren’t to your satisfaction,” proffered Simone with a slight bow of his head, “it is no fault of the cookware. I take full responsibility.” No apology was necessary, however, as either he, the cookware, or both did its work. A toast to “humility” was in order as glasses were filled with wine.
Befitting for the occasion, Marina served her family’s wine called Historia, an admirable Super Tuscan blend produced from the cantina of Guicciardini in their Poppiano estate. The name of the wine was created as a homage to one of their family’s most illustrious ancestors, Francesco Guicciardini, author of History of Florence (1509) and his most famous tour de force named History of Italy (circa 1540), friend of Machiavelli, ardent supporter of the Medici, one-time Governor of Bologna, ambassador to the Court of Spain, and from whom three popes sought counsel on diplomatic matters of importance during the tumultuous times. His statue stands among the great historical figures adorning the outside portico of the Uffizi Museum. “For me, Francesco represents the values of the time of the Renaissance,” Marina explains. “He lends inspiration to an historical event I am currently organizing which I am calling Rinasci – mentalmente. Apologia della Creatività!” For Marina, the wordplay she has chosen to call her event, translates roughly as an imperative act: Be Reborn, in your mind -- Urge for Creativity! The event will include both a visual dance performance for a portion of it and then an audio only art sound-design, to recreate the experience when Michelangelo’s David, undoubtedly the world’s most renowned sculpture, was transported in 1504 from its original workshop at the current location of the Opera del Duomo museum to the Piazza della Signoria, its home for nearly four hundred years before its move to the Accademia. Marina wants this event to act as an inspirational tonic for the arts. “I think there is more potential and need now than there was before for the arts, and for artists to connect. Now is the moment.”
The Divine Dinner salutes those who continue to birth creative endeavours and innovative expressions with passion. Rinasci – Mentalmente!