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Academia Barilla Menu Collection

International Ambassadors of Italian Gastronomy

The menus presented in this part of the website are part of a rich collection of over 5000 pieces. Academia Barilla acquired the complete collection from Livio Cerini di Castegnate, a renowned culinary scholar, and his wife Wilma. The collection is an extraordinary tool for the study and promotion of Italian gastronomic culture. In fact, a large part of the collection (over 2.000 menus) is dedicated to Italian dining. There are Italian menus that date back to the beginning of the 19th century. Some of the more rare works in the collection come from individual Italian States, prior to unification. From Piedmont, we have an extremely rare menu from a celebration of the Albertine Statute. There are also menus from the Whist circle, and many others from parties of political events of the 19th century.

The menus representing Milan and the Lombard come from the most important restaurants of the 19th century, noble and middle-class families, and political circles like the Associazione Patriottica. There are even menus celebrating the International Fair of 1906, the opening of the Sempione tunnel, and famous hotels and restaurants like Cova, Eden, Savini and the mythic Rebecchino. There are splendid menus from end-of-the-century Venice, including one celebrating the release of D’Annunzio’s book La Nave. We also have two unique menus from the Duke of Abruzzi’s 1900 North Star expedition, an adventure towards the North Pole.

There are menus from the House of Savoy, dated 1871. At the time, Florence was still the capital of Italy. The menus trace the careers of Umberto I and then Vittorio Emanuele II. There are colonial and wartime menus that include a unique menu autographed by Gabriele d’Annunzio on October 18,1919 during the occupation of Fiume. The collection of Fascist memorabilia and menus is quite special; as are the menus from the Palazzo Venezia or Hotel Excelsior in Rome. And, of course, the menus from the many official lunches of Italian and foreign state ministers.

A second major subsection of the menu collection is dedicated to French cuisine. France was the first country to adopt and spread the use of the menu. We have examples from the Belle Époque, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco periods. Many of the menus represent important artists of the period: Abbema, Arnoux, Besnard, Bernard, Bloch, Cheret, Cocteau, Domin, Gerbault, Gilbert, Loviot, Milliere, Mucha, Neumnt, Redon, Robida, Willette, Von Stuck and many more. Some are signed and others even have a dedication. There are military menus from various regiments from World War I, the President of the Republic, and famous restaurants in Paris and throughout France (a couple are signed by Escoffier). The group of menus and invitations from the Bon Bock circle really stands out for its size and totality. These works were designed by the most important artists of the last twenty years of the 19th century.

The collection also includes 44 sample menus collected by Captain Medici da Marignano and the historic 165-piece collection of Alberto Cougnet, a doctor born in Nice when the city was still under Italian control. Cougnet loved to eat, wrote many cookbooks and collected menus. His son, Armando, was the founder of the Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport and of Giro d'Italia. In addition to the Italian and French menus, there are almost 400 menus from other European countries. There are also a number of menus created as advertisements and even menus dedicated to trips on the great cruise boats, or planes and trains.

Other menus in the collection are bound in monographs like Le menu - Une histoire illustre de 1751 à nos jours, by Philippe Mordaq, Il menu tra storia ed arte, or E per finire frutta cotta, from the Royal Theater in Parma in 2002. The size and quality of the Academia Barilla menu collection is quite impressive. The menus offer information about style and design, as well as the evolution of taste or esthetics over the course of time. The collection contains interesting culinary information as well. The menus reflect changing tastes and social customs.

Visit the Menu Gallery