Closing Out Summer with a "Farm to Fire" Sicilian Dinner
“Arrivederci ad Agosto.”
Ashes to Ashes
It takes a lot to get me out of the apartment on a Monday night. Especially one as hazy, hot, and humid as it was on the evening of August 28, the last Monday of August. But when Averna invited me to attend an alfresco Sicilian-inspired “farm to fire” dinner hosted at the New York Marble Cemetery, the oldest non-denominational cemetery in New York City, despite looming book deadlines and the oppressive heat, I couldn’t say no.
The entrance to the landmark 1831 East Village cemetery at 41-½ Second Avenue—the first non-sectarian burial place in New York City open to the public—is accessed through two large wrought-iron gates and down a narrow alley that opens to a block-size green lawn bordered on all sides by the multi-storied backsides of the buildings that border the lot. I assumed the souls resting here, mostly hailing from the prominent families of New York merchants and professionals (including Benjamin Wright, Chief Engineer for the Erie Canal) were interred behind the marble markers running along the north and south walls of the cemetery. But the 156 family vaults were below the vast lawn. Picnicking and socializing at historic cemeteries isn’t unheard of, especially in one available for public and private events, but I still said a little pre-dinner prayer to myself out of respect for the lives and memories of those hosting us who remained unseen.
The dinner’s theme was “arrivederci ad Agosto” and the live fire and smoke menu was curated, cooked, and presented by chef Daniel Sabia and his team at Wood Fire Food in Hudson Valley, New York. After working in Michelin-starred and James Beard Award-winning restaurants in New York, Sabia started his own business to focus on cooking for guests beyond the confines of the four walls of a classic restaurant setting, offering an immersive experience with his team throughout the live-fire, open cooking process. “That's deeper than what can be gleaned from just grabbing a few dishes from a buffet table,” says Sabia.
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