When they added realistic shadows, cast from the same direction as the real world light in the viewing room, the effect was magical. When they would put a life sized mouse running along the edge of the floor, the reality effect was enhanced. If they made some elements like grapes or vines seeming come right out of the frame and onto the wall, you felt like you could reach out and touch and feel what your eyes perceived.
I find it curious that photography has become the symbol of "reality" rather than real life itself. When photography was in its infancy, artists were in an uproar (especially portrait artists) because they were losing assignments to people who they claimed were not artists, but merely technicians clicking the shutter on a machine. In no way could photography become a true art form.
In any event, I've collected a small sampling of hyper-realism paintings of food relating to Italian cuisine... Enjoy the slide show!