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Brunch becomes an experience

Di Antonio Caneva, 3 Ottobre 2003

Almost 40 years ago I worked in Heidelberg, Germany, for the officers’ club of the seventh American army in Europe. It was an interesting experience; the club was a re-enactment of USA living, from the composition of menus to the food, which was delivered straight from the States. I was young and curious about everything, and was particularly struck by learning about Sunday brunch. My curiosity was further aroused by the fact that I had difficulty understanding the word itself, until some good soul explained to me that it was a contraction of “breakfast” and “lunch”. Since then I have always enjoyed this type of meal, and I recall with pleasure having brunch at the English restaurant at MGM in Las Vegas, at the Hayatt in Frankfurt accompanied by a St Louis-style light orchestra, and a glorious Sunday at the Forum Hotel in Budapest (which I think now has another name) where a sumptuous brunch was accompanied by an orchestra (an orchestra, not a band) playing evergreen music.
Until a few years ago, the word brunch was virtually unknown in Italy, and hotels have only recently embraced this meal, in a creative spirit. At Sol Melià in Milan, for example, the tasting of food is gladdened by the sound of classical guitars, while at the Marriott the sound of harp music accompanies your meal.
While this is happening in Italy, many foreign countries have already gone beyond this, and a new approach is spreading where brunch is no longer a buffet, but a cuisine event.
The Four Seasons of New York, in search of new proposals to compete on the difficult New York market, has found its winning move in a menu that samples six dishes; on Sundays they currently serve about 150 people at US$ 45, with 60% of customers from the city and 50% regulars. In New Orleans – in keeping with the eccentric nature of this city – they have instead organised a Drag Queen show which, according to the restaurant general manager Roberto Rizzuto, has been extremely successful both in terms of attendance and for the purpose of organisation. Because people come to see the show, says Mr. Rizzuto, they all tend to come punctually, and in so doing, they facilitate the kitchen work.
Brunch is opening up new prospects and may play a significant role for Italian restaurants, particularly for hotel restaurants, which are currently making an effort to attract external customers like in other countries.

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