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January 14, 1964

President Lyndon Baines Johnson hosted a State Dinner for Italian President Antonio Segni. Featured entertainment included Robert Merrill of the Metropolitan Opera and the New Christy Minstrels. President Segni and his wife were given a silver box, engraved with maps of both countries and a sentence from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (“Italy remains to all, the land of dreams and a vision of delight”), as well as a 1774 letter from Philip Mazzei to Thomas Jefferson. The menu included crab meat Maryland, filet of beef, waffled potatoes, string beans amandine, endive and watercress salad, brie cheese, and mocha mousse.

President Lyndon B. Johnson speaking from a podium with Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro and others at a State Arrival on April 20, 1965.

Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library and Museum/NARA
April 20, 1965

President Lyndon B. Johnson hosted a State Dinner for Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro. Featured entertainment included American opera star Leontyne Price. President Lyndon B. Johnson and First Lady Lady Bird Johnson welcomed Prime Minister Moro with fanfare on the South Lawn. After a meeting in the Oval Office, the Johnsons took Moro on a walk through Lafayette Square and stopped for a lunch hosted by Secretary of the Treasury Henry H. Fowler at Decatur House. President Lyndon B. Johnson remarked at the dinner: “It was 100 years ago that Mark Twain journeyed from the heartland of America to your country, Mr. Prime Minister, and in one sentence unveiled the eternal appeal of Italy. ‘Simply say,’ he wrote, ‘that the Creator made Italy from designs by Michelangelo.’ When the world was young, Italy was wise. The world is older now, but the wisdom of Italy is everlasting.” The dinner menu included Florida pompano called “Pompano Moro” in honor of the guest, roast sirloin of beef, served with braised celery, and asparagus. Charlotte Russe was served for dessert.

September 19, 1967

President Lyndon B. Johnson hosted a State Dinner for Italian President Giuseppe Saragat. A birthday cake was served to Italian President Giuseppe Saragat as the State Dinner fell on his sixty-ninth birthday. As entertainment, Richard Kiley sang selections from “Man of La Mancha.” President Lyndon B. Johnson said in his remarks, “When I greeted you yesterday I mentioned the great debt that our country owes to your country—that America owes to Italy—and to the millions of Italians who have helped to build America into what it is.”

February 18, 1971

President Richard M. Nixon hosted a State Dinner for Italian Prime Minister Emilio Columbo. During his remarks, President Nixon quoted former President Woodrow Wilson, saying, “that the United States could not bear to part with the genius of the Italian spirit which has meant so much to this country in the past and means so much to it today.” Prime Minister Colombo’s remarks humorously referenced the dinner menu when he said, “I see here salmon from the Columbia River. I think I see something here. Then the filet mignon Potenza. That is where I was born.” Prime Minister Colombo also addressed the common bonds between the two nations, saying, “And we are deeply proud, Mr. President, to know and to feel how proud they are to be American citizens and also to see how deeply proud they are of their links with the old country. These are realities, Mr. President, which, of course, point up the depth of the bonds that link our two peoples. And I would say that these bonds are not only of a sentimental order but they are based on common ideals, they are based on the objectives that we share, and they are based on also the closeness that we feel in our responsibilities in sharing the cause of furthering the welfare of the nations.”

Frank Sinatra with President Richard Nixon, First Lady Pat Nixon, and Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti after Sinatra’s East Room performance at a State Dinner on April 17, 1973.

Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library and Museum/NARA
April 17, 1973

President Richard M. Nixon hosted a State Dinner for Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. Following the dinner, over 200 guests gathered in the East Room to hear Frank Sinatra, introduced by President Nixon as “a man whose parents were born in Italy but yet from humble beginnings went to the very top in entertainment.” The singer was so moved by the ovation he received that he took refuge behind the bandstand and wept quietly. Taking place shortly before his return to performing after a temporary retirement, Sinatra sang many of his well-known songs including “You Make Me Feel So Young, “Fly Me to the Moon,” and “I’ve Got the World on a String.” After the performance, President Nixon told the audience, “once in a while there is a moment when there’s magic in the room- when a great performer, singer and entertainer is able to capture us all. Frank Sinatra did that tonight.”

September 25, 1974

President Gerald Ford hosted a State Dinner for Italian President Giovanni Leone. The pair reasserted friendly relations between the two countries and announced tentative plans for President Ford to visit Italy. Before the dinner President Leone and his wife visited the National Gallery of Art, viewing Venetian drawings on display, as well as the permanent collection of Italian art. Gunther Schuller’s New England Conservatory Ragtime Ensemble provided after dinner entertainment in the East Room.

December 6, 1976

President Gerald R. Ford and First Lady Betty Ford hosted a State Dinner for Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. In his remarks, President Gerald R. Ford said, “Historians point out that Thomas Jefferson, in writing the Declaration of Independence, drew on the wisdom of his Italian friend, Filippo Mazzei, in the drafting of several very, now immortal phrases... The very name America commemorates an Italian.” The Italian Prime Minister during his remarks likewise noted, “Your country offers us familiar images and echoes. We can see the classical aspects of Palladian inspiration in your Nation's Capital.” During his toast, Prime Minister Andreotti read a list of Italian American surnames of American who were killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The menu’s highlights included filet of red snapper meunière, supreme of rock Cornish hen, wild rice croquettes, zucchini with mushrooms, watercress and hearts of palm salad, and trappist cheese. To top it off, chocolate soufflé with vanilla sauce was served for dessert.

Giulio Andreotti, President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic, offered a toast in the State Dining Room on December 6, 1976. The dinner was hosted by President Gerald Ford.

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum/NARA
July 26, 1977

President Jimmy Carter hosted a State Dinner for Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. Shirley Verrett sang Italian arias for the evening’s entertainment. The Entrance Hall was decorated with baskets of plants borrowed from the United States Botanic Garden. The menu consisted of seafood cocktail, roast lamb, and frozen soufflé.

January 24, 1980

President Jimmy Carter hosted a State Dinner in honor of Italian Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga. Country and western singer Tom T. Hall provided the evening’s entertainment. President Carter delivered the following remarks during his toast: “It's not only in a time of crisis and trial and testing that we and the Italian people have been drawn together. We have much in common, as you well know, not only in times of current events but historical perspective. Our culture has been derived to a major degree from the great teachers, scholars, poets, of Rome. Every American knows at least one phrase in Latin, "E Pluribus Unum," and it came, as you know, from a poet, Virgil, in Rome.”

March 25, 1982

President Ronald Reagan hosted a State Dinner for Italian President Alessandro Pertini. Frank Sinatra and Perry Como performed after the dinner. Talks emphasized Cold War relations and a commitment to fighting terrorism. President Reagan thanked Pertini for the rescue of Brigadier General James Dozier following his capture by the Italian Red Brigades, a Marxist guerilla group. Dozier attended the dinner.

October 11, 1989

President George H. W. Bush hosted a State Dinner for Italian President Francesco Cossiga. Virtuoso violinist Isaac Stern provided after-dinner entertainment. President George H. W. Bush remarked, “And for millions of Americans, Italy is the old country -- home of a proud heritage, a heritage written into every page of the history of Western civilization. The greatness of Rome was known, of course, throughout the world, more than a thousand years before our country or this continent was even known to exist . . . And so, let us raise our glasses to President Francesco Cossiga, to the Republic of Italy, and to the lasting friendship and love between the people of Italy and America.” Menu items included herbed mozzarella cheese shipped from Italy, medallion of veal Piemontese, cepes au gratin, and jalapeno gnocchi.

March 6, 1990

President George H.W. Bush hosted a State Dinner for Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti. Chief of Protocol Joseph V. Reed Jr. described the dinner: “Italian style is the essence of style . . . Subtle, understated, and elegant, with a capital E.” Guests included Elizabeth Taylor and Frank and Barbara Sinatra. First Lady Barbara Bush wore a white and silver Bill Blass brocade gown. The dinner menu included mushroom terrine, truffle mousseline, crown roast of lamb, and chocolate truffles. Soprano Roberta Peters provided the evening’s entertainment.

April 2, 1996

President William J. Clinton hosted a State Dinner for Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro. President Clinton delivered a toast: “In this century we have been treated to supreme grace on our sporting fields by athletes from Joe Dimaggio to Joe Montana. In the fine arts we've been blessed with the exuberance of Italians in music from Toscanini to Sinatra to Jon Bon Jovi. [Laughter] We have seen the pathbreaking innovation of Frank Stella in painting, and we have seen Italian after Italian after Italian grace the silver screen, from Frank Capra to this year's best actor, Nicholas Cage.” The menu included zucchini soup, lamb with basil polenta, portabello mushrooms and roasted peppers, strawberry surprise with lemon burned cream, and almond pistachio nougat in a chestnut gondola.

May 6, 1998

President William J. Clinton hosted a State Dinner for Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi. The menu included a tart of spring vegetables [Artichoke and fiddlehead ferns, mild lemon and wild leek dressing], grilled Alaskan halibut, coulis of fresh green peas, Gremolata risotto, Oregon morels, asparagus and fava beans, and a salad of Purslane and young greens, charred Vidalia onions, mango and avocado, with curried basil dressing. For dessert, there was “A Tribute to Bologna,” a peach cake with chestnut parfait in the shape of Bologna's leaning Asinelli Tower, with chocolate caramel sauce.

October 13, 2008

President George W. Bush hosted a State Dinner for Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. President Bush remarked: “The ties between the people of America and the people of Italy run deep, and the friendship between our countries has never been stronger. . . We're partnering to meet the challenges in our economies and expand trade and prosperity. And we share a vision of a future of freedom and hope for all the people.”

October 18, 2016

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a State Dinner in honor of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and Mrs. Agnese Landini of Italy on October 18, 2016. Held in a tent on the White House South Lawn, guest chef Mario Batali served the dinner in coordination with White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford and White House Pastry Chef Susan Morrison. The décor was inspired by the Italian influence on American culture and included detailed chandeliers, mirrored table tops, bouquets, and candlelit centerpieces. In addition to Sweet Potato Agnolotti with Butter and Sage, Warm Butternut Squash Salad, and Beef Braciole Pinwheel with Horseradish Gremolata, canapes were served with ingredients from the White House Kitchen Garden. Singer Gwen Stefani provided the after dinner entertainment.

In his toast, President Obama commemorated historical and cultural connections between Italy and the United States, saying, “Our declaration that 'all men are created equal' was penned by Thomas Jefferson, and it was a concept shared by his friend, also from Florence, Firenze, Filippo Mazzei. We stand before the Lincoln Memorial and see the work of the Piccirilli brothers. We look up at the dome of the U.S. Capitol and marvel at the touch of Brumidi.”

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About the White House Historical Association

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the nonprofit, nonpartisan White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association’s mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the Association has given more than $50 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission.

To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit WhiteHouseHistory.org.

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