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President Barack Obama hosts Italy's prime minister

It is Obama's final state dinner before he leaves office

Washington CNN  — 

President Barack Obama’s final State Dinner Tuesday was a swirl of dolce vita diplomacy, Italian designer gowns and plates of Mario Batali pasta easing a bittersweet end to one of the presidency’s best perks.

The dinner marked an final moment for Obama to deploy the lavish displays of friendship afforded the US commander-in-chief. But it also symbolized an end to the stylish, celebrity-friendly era of presidential entertaining the Obamas ushered in eight years ago.

Speaking Tuesday morning, Obama said he had “saved the best for last” in extending the most formal of Washington invites to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Planning the event, the White House embraced the opportunity to go large, inviting more guests than any of Obama’s previous 12 events and serving a meal oozing with continental flair.

Even first lady Michelle Obama embraced the “go big or go home” attitude, striding out of the White House North Portico Tuesday wearing a figure-hugging Atelier Versace gown made entirely of rose gold chainmail. The dress appeared to spark as cameras flashed.

The evening was a rare moment of refinement in an otherwise crude election season that’s occupied Washington. Even the mud slinging wasn’t far from Obama’s mind during a dinner toast.