Bartolomeo Scappi, c. 1500 –1577: Top Chef

Sistine Chapel Roof,  Mona Lisa,  School of Athens – all works for the ages, of course, but what do we really think of when we think of Italy?   And if that’s what we think, then surely they were thinking the same thing in the days of Leonardo and Michaelangelo and Rafael.  But as a more transitory pleasure than the above mentioned works, food and its creators tend to get less lasting fame.   Of course the Romans had Apicius, but he was old school, a curiosity for classicists and food historians.

It is Scappi who deserves our attention.

His dates are approximate and various cities try to lay claim to him.  Ironically, Bologna, the food town par excellence, has one of the weakest cases to make.  Milan figures as a more plausible candidate, and even more so Lombardy, and there is evidence he spent some time in Venice.  But it is Rome where he makes his greatest mark, first overseeing the tables of various Cardinals, then as the head chef for six popes in the Vatican.  (Must have been a slow time with Pius V who was notoriously abstemious in his own habits.) Continue reading