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The art of the meal

Black Angus burger at the New American Cafe A Black Angus burger with Grafton cheddar from the New American Cafe. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
By Devra First
Globe Staff / November 14, 2010

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YOU’VE MARVELED AT John Coney’s silver sugar box, Edward Steichen’s print “Pears and Apple, France,’’ and Jerome Thompson’s painting “A Pic Nick in the Woods of New England.’’ Hungry yet?

The Art of the Americas Wing brings a new dining option to the MFA — and the touch of a celebrity chef. More casual than museum restaurant Bravo, the New American Cafe is located in the glass-enclosed Ruth and Carl J. Shapiro Family Courtyard. “It’s a big jewelry box, so to speak,’’ says general manager Gregg Fontecchio.

Executive chef Peter Agostinelli, who has been at Bravo since August, will oversee the cafe. Chef Ken Oringer — behind high-profile local restaurants Clio, Uni, Toro, La Verdad, KO Prime, and Coppa — will also be involved.

Agostinelli was previously at the Bedford Village Inn in New Hampshire and has worked with the Olives Group. In keeping with the wing’s theme, his menu focuses on classic American cuisine. There is a strong regional slant, with dishes such as lobster pot pie, New England corn chowder, and a burger made from locally raised beef. Local, seasonal ingredients will be featured prominently on the menu, according to Fontecchio. “There’s a commitment to sustainable products,’’ he says. “We work directly with a lot of local farms.’’

Oringer is creating a prix fixe section of the menu that takes a larger view of the Americas, showcasing fare from such places as Mexico and South America. Working with event planner Bryan Rafanelli, he is also designing menus for the wing’s opening parties that will feature dishes from his restaurants. “It’s an incredible museum,’’ Oringer says. “It’s a spectacular forum.’’

The Americas are not the only inspiration for the food. The artwork is another. The cafe will create themed menus to go with different exhibitions, and sculptures and other floor pieces will be displayed in the dining area.

The New American Cafe, which seats 136, will someday replace the Galleria and Courtyard Cafe dining areas, which are in parts of the West Wing that will be redesigned. Bravo, also in the West Wing, will remain.

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