A short history
Dino Villani, the man behind Buon Ricordo and Miss Italy
Buon Ricordo was launched in spring 1964 and the main driving force behind the initiative was Dino Villani, a man renowned for his knowledge of art and culture, but also a noteworthy figure in the advertising world, with a string of highly successful initiatives to his name (the launch of the first Miss Italy contest, the popularising on a commercial scale of Mother’s Day in Italy and so forth). Villani was well aware of the huge potential of Italy’s multifaceted gastronomic traditions (as befitted a man of his culture) which, as Vincenzo Buonassisi wrote in his review of the new association in the newspaper Corriere della Sera in April 1964, were at the time, “either secrets or neglected”. Restaurants of a certain level tended to serve dishes inspired by French cuisine, while the trattorias reassured their rather more modest clientele with the promise of “home cooking”.
Villani came into frequent contact and held numerous discussions with some of the great names in Italian cooking of the time (Angelo Berti, Giorgio Gioco), and was part of the circle around the newly-founded “Accademia Italiana della Cucina” (Orio Vergani). He was looking for an idea to promote what is now known as regional cooking, a way of letting people know more about it and tempting consumers to try out restaurants which were daily serving top quality regional cooking. A valid formula to convince restaurant owners to take a firm stance in favour of regional cuisine and to profit from it in terms of an increase in the number and quality of their customers. To have this happen, or at the very least to set the ball rolling successfully, the “marketing mix” had to gratify consumers over and beyond giving them good, genuine food and excellent hospitality.
The man, the moment and the marketing idea
This superlative communicator eventually found his inspirational idea: each restaurant joining the association had to have a Buon Ricordo speciality on its menu, an emblematic dish perfectly representing its local tradition or that of the region its cuisine was based on. Guests who opted for the speciality would receive a gift of a plate as a souvenir of the restaurant and the food they had eaten: a gift designed to help remember the “buon ricordo”, the “happy memory”, of an unforgettable dining experience.
A marketing device certainly, but a discreetly cultured one in perfect harmony with Italian traditions. Many parts of Italy are well known for their artistic ceramics and have been for centuries. The Buon Ricordo plates are no mass-produced gadget. They are hand-crafted by the famous potters in Vietri sul Mare, which has been producing ceramics for millennia. The clay is locally-sourced and the whole process is carried out by hand. The artists paint the plates one by one, copying the master design for each series. And they are not merely decorative, but also practical. Safe to use because the materials all comply with the regulations governing tableware, there is no lead in the paints. The chefs’ art inspires the decorators, all in inimitable Italian style.
The venture proved a huge success. The press was enthusiastic, praising the idea and the rigorous quality behind the initiative to the skies. The association was launched by 12 founder-member restaurants at the Press Club in Milan in April 1964, where they prepared a truly memorable dinner: two of them are still going strong, and we are proud to say that they are still members of the association today: the 12 Apostoli in Verona and Laurin in Salò.
And what about the plates?
The plates are still going strong. They hang proudly on the walls of many an Italian home, sometimes in their hundreds. A vivacious, colourful display that thousands of Italians show their friends as they remember the wonderful food they ate, the convivial evenings, the people they were with and the occasions they marked. They are also gradually becoming fashionable for eating off, cheerfully colourful conversation pieces.
Collecting things, whatever they may be, from corkscrews to priceless paintings, is always in some way a source of suffering and joy for the collector, and our hand-painted plates are no different from any other type of collection. Any slight variation, any error, that even the most painstaking of craftsmen can sometimes commit, is the object of spasmodic attention. In 1977 the Collectors’ Association was founded completely independently from the Unione del Buon Ricordo, but we extend the hand of grateful friendship to its members in thanks for their passion for our work (www.collezionistipiattibuonricordo.it).