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The Gruppo Italiano (GI) promotes authentic Italian cuisine through member restaurants, culinary scholarships, and events. Its mission is to popularize authentic Italian cuisine, wines, and products in the United States through education and promotions. Throughout its history, GI has made significant strides in enhancing the passion for Italian food and wine throughout the American hospitality industry. Members include influential Italian restauranteurs, distributors, importers, and prominent business and cultural leaders.

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Il Gattopardo, which opened in 2001, specializes in authentic southern Italian cuisine. The restaurant is located in the historically landmarked Rockefeller Townhouses at 13-15 West 54th Street. I enjoyed my chance to go inside this brilliantly renovated architectural gem which features a beautiful eight story atrium which enables the entire south wall to serve as a light source.  It was particularly auspicious for me to be able to appreciate this special building on the day that one hundred and one year old David Rockefeller passed away.

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The evening featured several guest speakers who regaled the audience with descriptions of Italian food and culture. Keynote speaker restauranteur Gianfranco Sorrentino asked his listeners to imagine America without pizza and Italian restaurants. He said, “Italian cuisine is an evolution which reflects culture.” I was particularly happy to hear that GI supports scholarships to enable American students to travel to Italy to familiarize themselves with food cultures. GI also enables Italian students to visit the United States.

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Il Gattopardo provided delicious hors d’oeuvres. I was treated to succulent meatballs served on white spoons, fried mozzarella infused with anchovy sauce, and skewered ham with oranges. The salty and tangy fried artichoke hearts were the best of the group. The speaker who said that Italy has the best health in the world made me feel less guilty about eating too much.

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I thoroughly enjoyed my chance to learn about GI, acquaint myself with a landmark building, and savor great food.

– Marleen S. Barr

Il Gattopardo
13-15 W 54th Street
btw. 5th and 6th Avenues
New York, NY 10019

Photos by Patrick McMullan via Lawlor Media Group