Founded in 2007 under the guidance of Alice Waters, the Rome Sustainable Food Project provides the AAR community with seasonal, nutritious, and delicious food that nourishes scholarship and conviviality.
Guided by the spirit of the Roman table and using the Academy’s vegetable garden as well as that of nearby farms and organic suppliers, it is Academy’s aim to provide a replicable model of simple, sustainable food for other like-minded institutions. The RSFP is sustained by a vibrant internship program and volunteers from the Academy community. It is also a member of Rome’s Slow Food Community.
The dining table at the Academy isn’t just delicious, it’s an idea that brings us back to our senses and can be a model for educational institutions everywhere.
Creating a Model
The central mission of the Rome Sustainable Food Project is to nourish and support both work and conviviality at the AAR community table.
The RSFP is an eco-gastronomic endeavor that supports the mission of the Academy: the kitchen cooks seasonally and sustainably. Menus are inspired by the seasonal and organic produce of local farmers and the cooking techniques of Rome and Lazio.
The RSFP is not a restaurant: the kitchen prepares food for the same group of people daily with a keen awareness to nutritional balance, intelligent eating, and conscious consumption.
The RSFP kitchen, open Monday through Saturday (there are no meals served on Sunday), serves on a daily basis approximately 120 members of the Academy community and their guests at each meal. During Trustees Week in May–June and the summer months, meal numbers may approach 180.
Lunch is served buffet style while dinner is served plated or on platters passed at the table. Each morning, the pastry cook bakes muffins and scones to be sold in the Academy bar, and in the afternoon, Italian and American cookies for the Library Tea.
The kitchen also prepares picnic lunches for fellows who are out during lunch. Homemade cookies, granola, dry-roasted almonds, and jam are all sold in the bar as part of the RSFP grocery program. Additionally, the RSFP caters cocktail receptions, special events, and coffee breaks during meetings and lectures for the Academy.
In fall 2008 and with guidance from the AAR gardeners, the Rome Sustainable Food Project began planting and harvesting the fifteen raised beds in the Mercedes T. and Sid R. Bass Garden of the Academy. Eager to get their hands in the soil, RSFP interns and other volunteers devote a half day a week to garden work. The kitchen has often harvested wonderful salads, greens, herbs, and radishes from the garden to serve at the dining table. Young cooks, the Academy community, and their families have a real desire to learn about growing food and benefit greatly from hands-on gardening.
The RSFP program of internships and visiting cooks is a dynamic and essential component of the project. Young interns and aspiring cooks are immersed in the daily endeavor of preparing food for the AAR community. Interns are folded into the kitchen and larger Academy community upon their arrival in Rome. For four months, interns live on Academy premises working morning and/or evening shifts in the kitchen five days a week and once a week in the garden.
Contact rsfp [at] aarome.org to request an information packet or visit the RSFP Internship Program for more information.
In 2009 the bar underwent a complete restoration thanks to a generation donation from Richard L. Grubman, AAR Trustee. Over a morning cappuccino or evening aperitivo, everyone from Fellows and Residents to visitors and academy staff cluster around the bar and gather at tables to break from work, exchange thoughts, and enjoy the community’s company. Where portraits of former fellows line the walls and the Rome Sustainable Food Project’s baked goods are sold warm each morning, the bar at the American Academy in Rome is a bustling hub of social activity.