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Pompeii’s Table: Sublime and Ancient Food That Survived Vesuvius’ Fury

In support of the Orlando Science Center exhibition, Pompeii: The Immortal City, which opens October 26, eight Artistic Partners across Orlando were commissioned to imagine the sights, sounds, words and, in this case, the foods of ancient Italy.

Pompeii’s Table: Sublime and Ancient Food That Survived Vesuvius’ Fury, a series of events celebrating the powerful food legacy of ancient Italy, was conceived by freelance writer, food writer and playwright, Joseph Reed Hayes. He posed the following questions: What do we know about the food of Pompeii, what did the Pompeiians eat, how did they eat it, and what can we take from that inspiration to go Ancient Roman wild?

A baker’s dozen of Orlando’s most inventive chefs, culinarians and creative artists joined the Pompeii’s Table project to help answer those questions. Through six 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.

Chefs who operate in a world that equates Italian food with tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant, must build menus without those new-world foods, unavailable to Pompeiian cooks.

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

Hayes pored through ancient written records and visual evidence to discover the actual ingredients and recipes of Pompeii, creating a list to inspire the chefs in their leap from the 1 st century to the 21 st .

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

Pompeii’s Table’s six events begin November 11, 2020, with the final dinner on January 19, 2021. Tickets for all Pompeii’s Table events will be available at or Pompeii: The Immortal City, the exhibition at the Orlando Science Center, opens October 26, and runs through January 24, 2021; tickets available at

November 11 – PAST EVENT

Chef Fabrizio Schenardi

Imperial Rome Reinvented  
A sumptuous multi-course meal at Ravello at Four Seasons Resort Orlando, exclusive to Pompeii’s Table guests in the grand dining room. Executive Chef and Italian native Fabrizio Schenardi will prepare a present-day version of an ancient patrician banquet. “Pompeii and Stay” special rate package available at the Four Seasons. $125/person 

December 2

Antiqua Cervisia: Reviving Ancient Ales   – SOLD OUT 

Chef Jes Tantalo and Brewer Brent Hernandez

Pompeii’s Table consulting chef Jes Tantalo joins forces with Brent Hernandez, head brewer of Redlight Redlight Beer Parlour. A week of Italian street food specials at Redlight Redlight will culminate in the December 2 dinner of five paired courses and vintage ales. $75/person all inclusive

December 13

Chef Kevin Fonzo

La Tavola Reinvents Saturnalia SOLD OUT

Chef Kevin Fonzo prepares a modern-day celebration of the ancient Roman predecessor of Christmas. The festival of Saturn in December was a period of general merrymaking during which Romans feasted, sang, and played music.

January TBA

Pompeii’s Words: A Poetic Exploration
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, and ancient stories from the obscure to the ridiculous gleaned by Hayes. Of course, there will be some Pompeii-inspired food and wine to share. $10-20 suggested donation

January 9

Chefs Bruno Fonseca and Bruno Zacchini

Et Two Brunos: A Collaborative Adventure SOLD OUT
A six-course dinner and wine pairings created by two visionaries of the kitchen: Bruno Fonseca (The Foreigner Experience) and Bruno Zacchini III (Pizza Bruno).

January 19

Chef Stephen Doyle

Pompeii & The World – SOLD OUT
Hamilton’s Kitchen, The Alfond Inn, Winter Park
The final event of the series, a four-course dinner crafted by chef Stephen Doyle, influenced by Pompeii’s world-spanning trade, featuring modern interpretations of Roman staples such as boar, duck and sea bass. “Pompeii and Stay” special rate package available at The Alfond Inn. $100/person includes wine pairings and valet parking

About Joseph Hayes

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 envisioned the Pompeii’s Table events to celebrate Italian cuisine and its unique heritage. He has travelled extensively for 20 years 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. 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.

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 October 26, 2020 to January 24, 20201, 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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