Sunday, November 4, 2007
Throw the best Italian dinner party ever!
You walk into an Italian Restaurant - the whole experience is just wonderful - the smells, the atmosphere and hopefully when your order is delivered - the food. The background noise is all a part of the experience - it's often at a higher frequency than most restaurants but it's all part of the fun.
Why not take this same experience back to your own home and create a more intimate and less busy Italian dinner party? A dinner where people can enjoy a more leisurely dining experience within the comfort of your own home. A night where you can share your favorite Italian recipes with people who are important to you - or maybe even try out some new recipes?
Italian food never seems to lose its popularity. There's often a feeling of comfort and contentment attached to Italian food and the flavors are simply sensational. So, just how do you host a great Italian dinner party then?
1. Planning - In your planning, consider who you will invite and check the foods that they don't like or can't tolerate and set the date and time well in advance.
2. Invitations - Will you just invite your friends by sending them an email or can you do something a bit more creative with your invitation? You could attach a note to something very Italian. I saw a suggestion of sending the invitation attached to a small packet of biscotti or you could incorporate the colors of the Italian flag as the background (three vertical columns - green on the left, white in the middle and red on the left) on your invite.
3. Atmosphere - Do you want red and white checkered table cloths with chianti bottles as candle holders with wax dripping down the sides - just to give it that really authentic look? Or a plain white, red or green table cloth?
Try to get hold of some background Italian music like some opera for example. Some of Italy's best singers generally have included Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Mina and Claudio Villa.
4. Food - since Italians are renowned for taking great pleasure in their food, wine and the company of their friends dinners can often go on for hours. Italians see meals as a time to spend with family and friends instead of to gain immediate sustenance.
The number of courses served can range from three to six courses (called portate) or sometimes more courses!
You'll no doubt have some lovely smells permeating into the house before your guests arrive - you could also slowly bake some garlic bread in the oven so the smell is wafting through the house as your guests arrive. This will really let your guests know they've come to the right place!
You could start with antipasto which literally means "before the meal". This is also the traditional first course of a formal Italian meal.
Rather than hors devours offered on trays that guests enjoy before they are seated at the dinner table, antipasto is served at the table and signifies the beginning of your Italian meal together. An antipasto plate is usually placed at the center of the table. The antipasto dish doesn't even getting numbered as one of the courses.. it's just a given.
Diners are given small plates on which to place their choices. Traditional choices can include cured meats (prosciuito, mortadella, smoked ham and salami), marinated vegetables, olives, peperoni (marinated small peppers - not the meat called peperoni) along with an assortment of cheeses (like provolone, bocconicini and mozzarella).
The first course primo piatto (also referred to as simply primo) or minestra may consist of soup (minestroni perhaps?), pasta, gnocci, risotto or polenta - this should only be a small portion like a cup or so. This is a dish rich in carbohydrates.
The second or main course is called secondo piatto or piatto di mezzo which usually consists or fish or meat. Traditionally veal, pork and chicken are the most commonly used meat, at least in the North. The side dish is called contorno and may consist of a salad or cooked vegetables. A traditional menu features salad along with the main course.
The first dessert which consists of cheese and fruit is called Formaggio and frutta - the cheese and fruit is usually served together.
Then it's onto Dolce - dessert such as cakes or cookies.
You should also serve coffee/espresso known as Caffè.
Finally, Digestivo or "digestives" which are liquors/liqueurs like grappa, amaro or limoncello - sometimes referred to as "coffee killer" or ammazzacaffe.
All these dishes sound great and I imagine when people see the number of courses it may seem a bit daunting but you only need serve as many courses as you choose. I have discovered a great website hosting 3000 free recipes from around the world. Under Italian, I noticed they offered 217 recipes so I'm sure you can find all you need there.
Just check our recipes in the "categories"section of my blog for the link.
And check out this lovely Tuscan Gourmet Hamper - you could do something special and present a hamper to each couple or if you're invited to a dinner party, surprise your hosts and give them this wonderful gift. Rather than just a bottle of wine, this will really impress people:
Stay tuned for more dinner party ideas soon.
The Hostess with the Mostess