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Pompeii’s Table Project Resurrects the Food of Ancient Italy in Orlando

Eight events open a window on the culinary past, revealing what Pompeiians ate in 79 AD

In support of this summer’s Orlando Science Center exhibition, Pompeii: The Immortal City, eight Artistic Partners across Orlando were commissioned to imagine the sights, sounds, words and, in one case, the food, of ancient Italy.

Pompeii’s Table: Sublime and Ancient Food That Survived Vesuvius’ Fury, an original series of events celebrating the powerful food legacy of ancient Italy, was conceived by Joseph Reed Hayes—freelance writer, playwright, and Dining Critic for Orlando magazine.

What do we know about the food of Pompeii, what did they eat, how did they eat it, and what can we take from that inspiration and go Ancient Roman wild?

Seventeen of Orlando’s most inventive chefs, culinarians and creative artists have joined the Pompeii’s Table project to answer these questions. Through eight culinary and artistic events they will explore the history and food of Pompeiian kitchens.

Challenging the chefs to work solely with ingredients available at the time, each dining experience is an experiment in creativity: no tomatoes, potatoes, peppers or eggplant allowed.

But seafood, goat, quail, game, cheese, fermented fish sauce and a world encyclopedia of spices—very much yes. Plus, the odd cheesecake, jelly donut, fried chicken, and hamburger, all of which appeared on Pompeiian plates.

Hayes pored through copious written records, physical and visual evidence to discover the actual ingredients and recipes of Pompeii to inspire the group to leap from the 1st century to the 21st.

Some of the recipes have traveled well through the centuries to become what we recognize as Italian food; others, such as dishes featuring stuffed dormice, lark’s tongues and haunch of giraffe, less so.

Kathleen Osterhaus Blake, multiple James Beard Award nominee
Stephen Doyle, Hamilton’s Kitchen at The Alfond Inn
Bruno Fonseca, The Foreigner Experience
Joseph Hayes, food writer, playwright and Pompeii’s Table creator
Brent Hernandez, head brewer, Redlight Redlight
Brian Kerney and Rob Chase, Digress Wine
Susan Lilley, Orlando Poet Laureate
Anna McCambridge-Thomas, artist and animator
John O’Leary, pianist
Trina Gregory-Propst, SETTE Italian
Va Propst, SETTE Italian
Fabrizio Schenardi, Ravello at Four Seasons Resort Orlando
Jes Tantalo, Pompeii’s Table Consulting Chef
Shannon and Janice Talty, Olde Hearth Bread Co.
Bruno Zacchini III, Pizza Bruno

Pompeii’s Table events run from May through July, 2020, but will begin with a preview on March 7 at the Orlando Science Center as part of Science Night Live. Tickets for all Pompeii’s Table events may be purchased at or

The museum’s exhibition, Pompeii: The Immortal City, is open to the public from June 6, 2020 to September 7, 2020, at Orlando Science Center; advance tickets available at


March 07, 2020, 8pm; Forgotten Recipes of Pompeii; $16pp
Orlando Science Center, 777 E. Princeton St.
The story of food culture in Pompeii. Hayes will take the stage at Science Night Live, to offer an entertaining sneak peek at the Pompeii’s Table series, with visuals, animations and discussions, along with recreations of 1st Century Pompeiian bread, wines from the slopes of Vesuvius via Digress Wines, and samples of olive oil, cheeses and the pungent sauce called garum that accompanied the legions around the empire.

May 14, 2020, 7pm; Imperial Rome Reinvented; $125pp
Ravello at Four Seasons Resort Orlando, 10100 Dream Tree Blvd
A sumptuous multi-course meal at Ravello, from Executive Chef and Italian native Fabrizio Schenardi, who will prepare dinner live in front of the guests for a present-day version of an ancient patrician banquet.

May 24, 2020, 7pm; Pompeii’s Words: A Poetic Exploration; $10-20 suggested donation
Timucua Arts Foundation, 2000 S. Summerlin Ave.
An evening at the extraordinary Timucua Arts Foundation features Orlando Poet Laureate Susan Lilley, animator Anna McCambridge-Thomas, pianist John O’Leary and obscure italiano storytelling from Hayes. Of course, there will be some Pompeii-inspired food and wine to share.

June 6, 2020, 11am; Pompeiian Delights: “Ab ovo usque ad mala”; $70pp including beverages and valet
East End Market, 3201 Corrine Dr.
A Pompeiian-inspired brunch (“from eggs to apples”) prepared by multiple James Beard Award nominee Kathleen Blake (Rusty Spoon), and our consulting chef, Jes Tantalo. Ticket price includes a traditional, gluttonous multi-course meal, selected beverage pairings, valet parking, tax and gratuity. Beverage pairings from Digress Wines and reimagined Pompeiian beer from Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour.

June 10, 2020, 7pm; “Antiqua cervisia”: Reviving Ancient Ales; $30pp
Redlight Redlight, 2810 Corrine Dr.
Redlight Redlight head brewer Brent Hernandez instills his dual loves of history and beer into recreating Italian and Etruscan ales for a matchup of brews and Italian-style cheeses from Central Florida cheesemongers The Salty Cow.

June 19, 2020, 7pm; Et Two Brunos: A Collaborative Adventure; $75pp plus $25 wine pairings
Edible Education Experience, 26 E. King St.
A six-course dinner inspired by 1st-century Pompeii with two visionaries of the kitchen: Bruno Fonseca (The Foreigner Experience) and Bruno Zacchini III (Pizza Bruno), and wine pairings from Digress Wines.

July 9, 2020, 7pm; Journey to Pompeii; $95 including wine pairings
SETTE Italian, 1407 N Orange Ave.
A five-course modern interpretation of the heart of Pompeian life in true abundant Se7en Bites/SETTE style, from chefs Va Propst and Trina Gregory-Propst, along with authentic baked creations from Olde Hearth Bread Co. Two seatings.

July 24, 2020, 7pm; Pompeii & The World; $100 including wine pairings and valet
Hamilton’s Kitchen, The Alfond Inn, Winter Park
The final event of the series, a four-course crafted dinner influenced by Pompeii’s world-spanning trade, featuring modern interpretations of Roman staples such as boar, duck and sea bass, from chef Stephen Doyle.

Tickets and more information are available now at and, or write to

About Joseph Hayes
Pompeii’s Table creator, freelance writer, playwright and events producer Joseph Hayes has been writing about the Orlando scene since 1997. As the only independent producer presenting work during this series of artistic partnerships with the Orlando Science Center, Hayes is crafting the Pompeii’s Table events to celebrate Italian cuisine and its unique heritage. He has travelled extensively during the past two decades in the Campania area around Pompeii, researching the foodways and culture of the area. He writes for national and international publications about food, travel and the arts, and has won five Florida Magazine Association “Charlie” Awards for his food writing in Orlando magazine. With 42 productions and readings of his plays from coast to coast and in three countries since 2001, he continues to explore new environments for theater and jazz. He is the Chair of Word Play programming for The Timucua Arts Foundation.

About Pompeii’s Table
Pompeii’s Table is made possible through an arts and cultural partnership with Orlando Science Center and the Orange County Arts and Cultural Affairs Office to support the event, Pompeii: The Immortal City, open to the public from June 6, 2020 to September 7, 2020, at Orlando Science Center. Info and tickets at Special thanks to the Orange County’s Arts and Cultural Affairs Advisory Council, and its Blockbuster Committee and Tourism partners.

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