Person of the Month: Tony May, the legend of Italian cuisine

Person of the Month: Tony May, the legend of Italian cuisine

Jun 01, 2022Donatella Mulvoni

In April, Italian culture said goodbye to a superb culinary Maestro. He was the genius behind successful New York restaurants San Domenico, Palio and SD26.

From Torre del Greco to New York

Mr. May has lived in New York since the Sixties. At birth, his real name was Antonio Magliulo, Americanized than in Tony May. Antonio Magliulo was born in 1937 in Torre del Greco, Italy, a suburb of Naples in the South of Italy. Mr. May arrived in New York in 1963. He died in Manhattan at 84 last April 3. Without a doubt, he was the "king" of Italian cuisine in New York and the United States

An Italian legend in the US

During his long career, he had a clear vision: to introduce authentic Italian cuisine. Tony "A native of Italy, he was crucial in bringing Italian fine dining to New York and beyond, determined to break the stranglehold of French haute cuisine" says Florence Fabricant in the New York Times. "Rather, the Italian dining scene he found in New York was, for him, a disappointing river of red sauce, with a twist of lemon peel alongside espresso and Chianti poured from straw-covered bottles – continues - Though the red sauce still has a following today, for the past 30 or so years, thanks in great measure to Mr. May's determination, Italian American has been moved aside in favor of serious Italian at every level."

A cultural bridge between the US and Italy

Indeed, Mr. May created a cultural bridge between the United States and Italy, bringing chefs and winemakers from his homeland and sending his American chefs to Italy to learn. He opened six restaurants. In particular, Palio, San Domenico, and SD26, have made culinary history in New York City. His cookbook "Italian Cuisine: Basic Cooking Techniques" is a bestseller distributed at culinary schools throughout America. He was awarded high honors by the Italian Republic, including Cavaliere del Lavoro and Commendatore della Repubblica. His ties with Italy, particularly Campania, had always remained close, especially with Torre del Greco and Sorrento.

The Apostle of Italian Culture

May was a tireless "apostle" of Italian culture; that's why he founded Gruppo Ristoratori Italiani with the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce to promote Italian food, wine, and culture. "Americans are mad for the full diversity of fine Italian cuisine and wine, and for that, they largely have restaurateur Tony May to thank" says Wine Spectator, in a tribute to Tony May.

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