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Buon Ricordo Plates: Collectible Italian Ceramics That Began as a Advertising Device

For his 73rd birthday in April, Felice Macchi had lunch at La Bettola Del Gusto, a restaurant in Pompeii, Italy, with a deal with seafood.

He ordered the home specialty: spaghettoni, a thicker spaghetti, in a fermented anchovy sauce with black truffles and butter made with milk from water buffalo native to the Mediterranean area. The meal got here on a ceramic plate with a whimsical hand-painted design depicting the spaghettoni dish and a smoking volcano, a nod to close by Mount Vesuvius.

Mr. Macchi completed his meal — he mentioned it was “wonderful” — however didn’t go away the restaurant empty-handed. As an alternative of leftovers, he took dwelling the plate his pasta was served on.

It was a brand new addition to a set he has amassed of that kind of Italian tableware, often called Buon Ricordo plates. He has a whole bunch of them, lots of which he eats on. Others beautify hallways, the kitchen and the eating room of his dwelling in Varese, Italy.

Since 2022, Mr. Macchi has been the president of the Buon Ricordo Plate Collectors Affiliation. The group, which has about 400 members in Europe and South America, is planning an exhibition of the plates on the Fondazione Sant Elia, a museum in Palermo.

When requested why he began amassing the plates, Mr. Macchi, an insurance coverage agent, answered romantically.

“Why can we fall in love with a girl?” he mentioned.

The tableware was launched as a advertising and marketing instrument for an affiliation of regional Italian eating places, known as the Buon Ricordo Union, shaped in 1964. It could nonetheless be discovered on the union’s eating places — in addition to at Italian flea markets and vintage sellers, design commerce reveals like Maison et Objet in Paris and high-end décor shops like ABC Carpet & House in New York.

On the time the plates had been launched, native Italian cuisines had been principally ready at dwelling and largely seen as unfit of serving at eating places throughout Italy, lots of which had French-influenced menus as an alternative.

The thought for Buon Ricordo, which interprets to “good reminiscence” in English, got here from Dino Villani, an Italian promoting govt who, amongst different accomplishments, based the wonder contest now often called Miss Italy. He proposed the restaurant union as a method to promote and protect regional Italian cooking at institutions within the nation.

Restaurant house owners who needed to affix needed to present that they had been utilizing regional recipes and components; becoming a member of the union has additionally required an annual price. (This yr, it was 1,000 euros.) Within the Eighties, the union began to just accept eating places outdoors of Italy that adhered to its membership standards.

As soon as a part of the union, institutions acquired distinctive tableware designed to focus on their signature dishes, with every restaurant’s plate that includes its identify and a hand-painted motif that usually included cartoonish renderings of swordfish, rabbits, snails, cows or squid.

When a patron ordered a restaurant’s signature dish, it was served on a Buon Ricordo plate, which may very well be taken dwelling as a memento — a apply that has kind of continued to at the present time on the union’s 112 eating places, 11 of that are outdoors of Italy, in cities together with Paris, Tokyo and New York. (Lately, patrons of the eating places obtain the plates provided that they order the home specialty as a part of a multicourse Buon Ricordo tasting menu.)

Suki LaBarre, the vp of merchandising and e-commerce at ABC Carpet & House, mentioned the shop began carrying the plates in 2022; at first, it provided a small number of about 50 items that she and a colleague selected after contemplating numerous designs for greater than an hour. Final yr, she ordered some 600 extra plates for the shop from a provider that focuses on midcentury European ornamental objects.

“We’ve gone with the fish tales and never a lot the meat,” Ms. LaBarre mentioned of the sorts of motifs on the plates offered at ABC, which value $60 a plate. She attributed the curiosity within the type partly to its playful aesthetic and partly to its historical past.

Daniele Tassi, 36, purchased a couple of plates at ABC in February to make use of as décor at his Italian restaurant Terre, in Brooklyn. “I used to be stunned to see them there — however I perceive why they’re,” mentioned Mr. Tassi, the chef at Terre, which he owns with Monia Solighetto and Alessandro Trezza, a married couple with Milanese roots.

In January, Terre grew to become the primary and solely member of the Buon Ricordo Union in the US. Ms. Solighetto, 49, mentioned she needed to affix the union as a result of it stands for Italy’s custom of “consuming domestically and utilizing high quality, seasonal components” — a convention, she added, that’s now additionally “fashionable.”

At Terre, the signature dish is pappardelle pasta with a wild boar ragù, a household recipe Mr. Tassi was served commonly when he was rising up in Italy’s Umbria area. Apart from the boar meat, which comes from Texas, the dish at Terre is made utilizing components from Italy.

It’s served on Buon Ricordo plates with a design depicting the Italian and American flags and a grey boar standing in a coil of yellow pasta. They had been produced at a manufacturing facility in Vietri sul Mare, on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, which has been utilizing native clay to make the tableware because it was launched six a long time in the past.

On April 9, the Buon Ricordo Union had a dinner to rejoice its sixtieth anniversary in Vietri sul Mare. A particular plate was issued for the event, and cooks from some 100 related eating places ready a tasting menu. They included Mr. Tassi, who mentioned he returned to Brooklyn after the occasion with dozens of Buon Ricordo plates; he picked up some from his grandparents, who had collected the tableware within the ’70s and ’80s, a time when curiosity in it was surging in Italy.

Mary Lies, 60, has been a fan of the plates ever since she observed some at an antiques honest in Lucca, Italy, within the early 2000s. She has since been shopping for the tableware for herself and for her retail enterprise, Mercato, in Kansas Metropolis, Kan., which sells it for $37 a plate.

Ms. Lies described the ceramics as a kind of prompt temper lifter.

“Seeing them, you may’t assist however smile,” she mentioned.

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