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Obama: 'We saved the best for last' at final state dinner

President Barack Obama held a joint press conference at the White House with Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi where the two spoke about the commitment to a secure and strong Europe. (Oct. 18)

"Bittersweet" was the word of the night, the one often used to describe President Obama's final state dinner. "We saved the best for last," he said Tuesday as he welcomed Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi and his wife, Agnese Landini, to the White House. He wasn't joking. The final gala meant everything was big or bigger, from the personality of the guest chef (Mario Batali, who collaborated on the menu), to the size of the white tent (huge) on the South Lawn where the soiree was held, to the guest list (nearly 400 people).

Michelle, your tomatoes are great. But after the last weeks, let me be very frank, your speeches are better than your tomatoes.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi

Once again, the first lady dazzled — really — in her evening gown, a rose gold chain mail outfit by Italian designer Versace, the White House said. Grammy-winning pop singer Gwen Stefani opened the after-dinner segment with her hit, "The Sweet Escape," as her boyfriend, country music superstar Blake Shelton, looked on from the audience. The menu was designed to showcase traditional Italian dishes that are familiar to Americans and were made using ingredients pulled from Michelle Obama's garden during this month's final harvest, such as the sweet potatoes and herbs.

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STATE DINNERS

Obama administration

Obama has held 13 state dinners during nearly eight years in office, two more than President George W. Bush, but fewer than other recent predecessors, according to the White House Historical Association.

State dinner

A state dinner or state lunch is a dinner or banquet paid for by a government and hosted by a head of state in his or her official residence in order to renew and celebrate diplomatic ties between the host country and the country of a foreign head of state or head of government who was issued an invitation.

Mario Batali

Mario Francesco Batali(born September 19, 1960) is an American chef, writer, restaurateur, and media personality. In addition to his classical culinary training, he is an expert on the history and culture of Italian cuisine, including regional and local variations.