Menu dated: 26th 9bre (November) 1897
Dinner at the Quirinale Palace, Rome, hosted by Their Majesties King Umberto I and Queen Margherita of Italy
Queen Margherita, wife of King Umberto I, made her mark in culinary history by popularizing the humble pizza when she expressed a desire to taste the fare of her slightly more common subjects on a visit to Naples.
Of course no pizzeria was fit for royal patronage, so in 1889 Chef Raffaelle Esposito was commissioned to prepare a variety of pizzas for a royal taste-testing.
Queen Margherita gave her blessing to the patriotically colored red, white and green topping of tomato, mozzarella and basil. While Margherita’s nibbles on common Napoli cuisine are well documented, there was of course not so much as a hint of pizza back at home on the palace menu.
This 1897 menu-card from Rome’s Quirinale Palace reveals a royal appetite for veal and asparagus, roast quails and a frozen soufflé for dessert.
Just like Queen Victoria at the time, the King and Queen of Italy liked their roast quails to be boned and stuffed with foie-gras and truffles. But not any-old truffles; they had to be white truffles from their royal estates in Piedmont which were reserved exclusively for the royal table.
Their son, the future King Victor-Emanuel III, once declared of these truffles with a garlic odor, “they don’t taste bad, but they stink so”.
A normal dinner for the King and Queen was a large gathering consisting of between fifteen and twenty place-settings. The wife to the Danish Ambassador recalled an evening they had been invited to dine with King Umberto I and Queen Margherita at their Monza palace in 1884:
“The dinner was at seven o'clock. Every one was assembled when we entered the salon. The Prince of Naples was talking with some ladies. His Gouverneur, Colonel Osio, stood near him. After a few moments the King and the Queen came in together. The King greeted us with great kindness. The Prince kissed his mother's hand, made a military salute to his father, and left the salon. He is fifteen years old now, but looks younger. He wears a uniform which makes him look even smaller than he really is.
The King gave his arm to the Queen, and every one followed into the dining-room, going through the Japanese room. I should say that there were twenty people at table, Johan [husband and the Danish Ambassador] and I being the only guests. I sat on the right of the King, and Johan sat on the right of the Queen. The dinner was delicious. We had the famous white truffles from Piedmont supplied exclusively for the King”.
The menu is decorated with the dual royal monogram (U & M) for King Umberto I and Queen Margherita; and is quaintly dated with the archaic month of ‘9bre’ for November - originating from when that was the ninth month in the calendar. On the monogram there are ribbons flying from either side of the royal crown which carry the small initials FERT: for the Latin motto of the House of Savoy from which the Italian royal family belong - Foedere et Religione Tenemur (we are bound by treaty and by religion).
From the private Royal Menu Collection of © Jake Smith
Garbure aux croutons
Thick ham and cabbage soup topped with croutons
Tranche de Loup de mer sce Lionaise
Slices of sea-bass dressed in Lyonnaise Sauce made from white wine, butter, onions and parsley; created by Philippe de Mornay who pioneered the famous Mornay Sauce.
Noix de Veau aux Èpinards
Roast leg of veal with spinach
Pointes s’aspérges à la Milaniase
Asparagus spears sautéed in olive oil and served with a mayonnaise and lemon sauce
Rôt Cailles – Salade
Roast quails that have been boned and stuffed with a mixture of foie-gras and white truffles (from the King’s lown royal estates in Piedmont); and served with a salad.
Soufflé frappė à la vanille
Chilled vanilla soufflé
Queen Margherita of Italy