The Medici has been in Hyde Park since, roughly, forever. It has been in its current location longer than the current crop of undergrads have been alive. And I’ve worked there longer than I care to admit. In my (let’s call it) illustrious Medici career, I’ve been asked thousands of questions. Some are common: Where is the Robie House? Some are less common: Can I get half this pizza thin crust and the other half pan? But the one I’m interested in today is: What/who is the Medici?
This is a question I get a lot. I like to give different details with every answer. Lorenzo de’ Medici was the patron of all things Eye-talian and TWO of his sons became Pope. Catherine de’ Medici was briefly the regent of France and close personal friends with Nostradamus. Piero di Lorenzo de’ Medici was known as “Piero the Unfortunate” and was the Gran maestro of Florence until he was exiled for basic incompetence. Seriously, though, Lorenzo raised two Popes! When all is said and done, four Popes were Medicis. But what does this have to do with a burger/pizza/milkshake joint? On the surface? Very little.
The Medici (the restaurant) isn’t so much an Italian restaurant. It serves quesadillas and Moroccan ragout for Pete’s sake. We make Eggs Florentine for breakfast, but Florence isn’t a strong influence on our food. Plus, I think I can safely say that I am working with no future Popes. (Prove me wrong, Yaya!) But the legacy of the Medici family is something of an aspiration for the restaurant. The Medici family included heads of state, leaders of men, patrons of the architecture and sciences. Despite various flaws, they provided for an age where art and humanism could grow. They commissioned works from Raphael and Michelangelo, (possibly Master Splinter), and had their children taught by Galileo.
The Medici restaurant is a place for thought and discussion. It’s a place where we’ve served the Obamas, David Axelrod, and the like. We’ve employed actors, directors, musician, cartoonists, and all sorts of other artists. It’s a place where we showcase the artwork of our employees and the artwork of Matisse. It’s a place where what you see on our walls has a history, and isn’t there because the TGIFridays corporation thought it would provide proper flair. We are the Medici. (And to answer that most common question we pronounce is “Med-itchy”.)
And the U of C doesn’t have an Architecture school, no matter what Julia Roberts’s movies tell you.