” Federico Balestra, the C.E.O. of the North American branch of his family’s company, Sabatino Tartufi, put on a pair of white gloves, , squeezed past a rack of oil paintings, and rotated the tuber a few degrees—… As the auctioneer announced Lot No. 1, “the world’s largest white truffle,” Gabriel Balestra walked the tuber around the room. There was a scattering of applause, followed by several deep breaths and a visible slackening of jaws as waves of the truffle’s musky, intoxicating aroma followed in its wake. Bidding started at $42,500. Six seconds later, Brad—a Sotheby’s employee acting for a Taiwanese phone bidder—raised it to fifty thousand.
The auctioneer spent a fruitless and slightly uncomfortable forty seconds attempting to persuade someone to bid against Brad, before lowering his hammer. The room exhaled, and a few moments later Lot No. 2—a case of 1986 Château Latour from the magnificent cellar of Dr. Ed Planz—went on the block with an opening bid of $3,250. ” – Nicola Twilley – The New Yorker
A few weeks later as I searched for an interesting venue to spend a fun evening just before New Year’s . Trying to avoid overly rated tourists traps, on my inbox Groupon offered the taste of some of the world’s largest truffle auctioned by a renowned family of Italian restaurateurs at a too-good-to-be-true price with the right to an interactive mystery play dinner . I immediately booked four tickets . I wanted to surprise that year, my husband , daughter and son in law.
” Remember guys the largest truffle I spoke to you about? … I am inviting you all to dinner this week, but it’s a surprise. ” The partial invitation I forward them looked as follows
” See you tomorrow night Dec 30th….
For the auction of the Famous Donati 2 lb Truffle, at Italy’s most amazing restaurant Ciacco’s to a new dinner theater, murder mystery experience. Dress in your finest, and mingle with the elite of Italy! Top hats, extravagance, luxuriance and sinister looks welcome!”
My daughter wore high hills and her dress glittered in the dark. Both her husband and mine, shaved for the occasion, wore pocket ties , elegant blazers and sharply collared shirts. The queue at The Barn & Bail Theater on 161 W. 22nd Street was long and from the improvised kitchen at our right, (we were told the new venue was currently under construction) two overweight women in brick-color dresses in white aprons rushed to the theatre entrance passing through the rack of coats hats and scarfs obstructing our view, carrying plastic plates filled with a dark red sauced pasta looking like coagulated blood that a proper marinara. We were finally seated around the squared table wrapped in white paper and handed a few oversized dollar bills we would apparently need for the auction while one of the two ladies in a white apron offered us a view of the giant truffle on a tray. The room was now dark as the stage lights enhanced the brick-walled theatre temporarily transformed into a dining room . I immediately stood holding my camera, this is going to go on my instagram I thought proud...
“Mami” said my daughter alarmed with my lack of proper assessment.
” Can’t you see they are made of plastic too?” I lied replying I was well aware. The show started as the everything but-al-dente-pasta was served and our plastic glasses filled with wine we did not drink. The wealthy Donati family preparing to auction their treasured two-pound truffle pulled themselves out of financial crisis. However, festivities abruptly grind to a halt when the truffle went missing and the restaurant’s owner, Dante Donati, had been found dead. The mystery play although actors had been trying hard was predictable . Next to my daughter who bored had fallen asleep, my husband had kept occuppied eating whatever was left of my pasta, while my son in law checking thoroughly one e-mails after the other on his mobile phone when suddenly, out of the blues, Chef Bruno in a white uniform and hat appeared from behind to the scene. He was loud, very loud, so loud that he woke up my daughter in fright. Supposedly Italian a strong French Moroccan French accent could be detected in his voice . “He must be a Sephardic Jew” I whispered in my husband years who was now trying the minute slide of truffle on a truffled buttered toast. How unusual was that appearance? And the more the play went on, the more Chef Bruno improvised his spontaneous thoughts to a now well awakened and amused crowd The guy was truly funny! Most of the time and out of contest, he kept publicly apologizing to the theatre manager at the end of the room for the continuous interaction with the audience, now laughing in tears because ” He couldn’ help if they liked him although he tried so hard to follow track on the mystery play” His improvised performance included Robert de Niro mimics, a Michael Jackson thriller dance, a few Jewish jokes that made us all fall to the floor in laughters.
At only 34 years old, this French actor and baritone, David Serero, has become my friend. With more than 800 concerts and broadcasted performances , David has received international recognition and critical acclaim from all over the world and televisions totalizing an average audience of 30 millions of viewers and 18 millions on radios. On a Shabbat dinner at home with his very beautiful young wife Mariya, he invited me an my family to attend his New York City premiere debut as Shylock in Shakespeare ‘s “Merchant of Venice”. The modern production had been adapted by Serero into a sephardic style that featured Jewish ladino music of the era . The show at Center for Jewish History was sold out on its opening night and although very poignant and at times dramatic I couldn’t help smiling at his charismatic presence. His tears make me laugh and his laughters often made me cry.
With signature roles of Don Quixote from MAN OF LA MANCHA in Paris, title role from the revival of Duke ELLINGTON’s only musical BEGGAR’S HOLIDAY in November 1922, David recently performed with JERMAINE JACKSON in YOU ARE NOT ALONE, a musical written, directed and produced by David himself producing and directing as well I WISH YOU LOVE an album of Jazz standards with Jermaine Jackson. In December 2013, David shared the cover of “Theatre & Performances” with BARBRA STREISAND in London and made his BROADWAY solo debut at the SNAPPLE Theatre in New York.
At last performing on the most prestigious worldwide stages and for the most important occasions, this true Show-Man and Entertainer brings a fresh approach to the Opera world by giving more than 80 concerts per year, during which he brings all his eclectic repertoire (Opera, Broadway, World Music, Jazz and Comedy), resulting as unique shows. He has given concerts at the Opera Garnier Paris, L’Olympia, The Eiffel Tower..the Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow, the Budapest Opera conducted by Placido Domingo, concert at the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam.
If you haven’t had enough and find your life boring at times, rush, you still have time: David will perform at the Metropolitan Room in New York this coming July , 22 and 26 August 5 and 19, at 9.30 PM. But of course make sure not to forget to bring a handkiercheif as with him, you never know.