The Virginia Delegation of the Italian Academy of Cuisine held its Ecumenical
Dinner last month at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, offering a menu dedicated to meats uncommon on American tables,
Referred to as "Forgotten Parts," the Ecumenical Dinner was held worldwide on the same day by the 212 Delegations of the Academy, 77 of them in countries outside Italy. The Virginia Delegation is one of 14 in the United States.
The menu of this year's celebration was a challenging one, but the chef in charge, Brian Pellatt, responded admirably. His menu based on the "forgotten parts" of various animals brought unusual courses to the table, like Grappa Infused Liver Mousse, Beef Marrow on Potato and Olive Spread, Broth of Honeycomb Tripe and Broad Beans, Ravioli of Oxtail Ragu with Amarone and Basil, Veal Jowl with Smoked Belly and Garlic. Two kinds of the classic Italian Amarone wine -- a Riserva and a Classico -- were served along with the popular Prosecco and a sweet Vin Santo.
The Delegate of the Virginia Delegation, Marino de Medici, introduced Brian Pellatt of Bonnie Blue as one of the most creative and successful chefs in Virginia, with a versatile past that brought him to Italy to learn about the cuisine of Piedmont. The Italian Academy of Cuisine has the mission of spreading the knowledge of the original cuisine of Italy's many regions that feature an enormous food variety, from northern polenta to Sicilian pasta.
As Delegate de Medici often explains, Italian cuisine is the sum of myriad dishes from the regions that make up Italy, all of them different and traditional. The Ecumenical Dinner is part of an effort by the academy to spread and protect the three pillars of Italian cuisine: tradition, territory and original cooking techniques. Dishes such as tripe or bone marrow are largely unknown to Americans, but other parts of the animal, such as pork rinds or smoked belly, are popular with both Italian and American tastes.