Historical Menus of the Italian Royal Navy

a Royal Navy menu from 1894
a Royal Navy menu from 1894

The Ligurian town of Imperia will host an exhibit next week called I Menu Storici della Regia Marina, or Historical Menus of the Italian Royal Navy, as part of the Vele d’Epoca di Imperia, a biannual vintage sailboat and classic yacht regatta event held since 1986.

The exhibit materials are comprised of about 30 menus used by Italy’s Royal Navy, known until 1946 as the Regia Marina, and cover a period starting in the late 1800s through the Second World War. The menus, reconstructed on high-definition panels for the show, are artistically noteworthy in themselves, yet moreover speak to an astonishingly haute cuisine—even more remarkable considering the diverse range of situations that formed the backdrop of these sumptuous meals, from military conflict to elite social occasions (not to mention the labor and organization required to adequately outfit ship kitchens and dining halls for meals of this type).

The menu pictured here is for a ‘lunch with concert’ served on June 3, 1894 on board the battleship Francesco Morosini. The multi-course meal includes seafood crostini and soup, quail with truffles, steak alla Fiorentina, roasted chicken with watercress, artichokes and peas, and lobster salad, followed by a four-course dessert and the de rigueur finish to any Italian dining experience, fruit and coffee. Note the wines on the left of the course lists and the accompanying musical program details on the right. Beneath the menu, the exhibit panel lists the ship’s technical characteristics as well as (my favorite part) the recipe for one of the menu’s dishes, gelato alla Napolitana.

Taking place alongside the exhibit is another show called Il Rancio di Bordo (On-Board Rations), during which Rear Admiral Alessandro Pini will illustrate how sailors have faced the question of eating at sea over the centuries; while throughout the adjacent town Oneglia, various restaurants will recreate some of the dishes listed on the historical menus for the occasion.

I Menu Storici della Regia Marina e il Rancio di Bordo
September 10 to 14, 2014
Exhibit Location: Biblioteca L. Lagorio, Imperia (Oneglia)
Organized by A.N.M.I. (National Association of Italian Sailors)