Ah, ‘la dolce vita’: the sweet life. There’s a reason the hashtag #italiansdoitbetter has 820K posts on Instagram! The lifestyle is incomparable, and hosting your friends for an Italy-themed dinner party is equal parts stylish, festive, and (our favorite): low-maintenance. Once you know the secrets of entertaining like an Italian, you’ll discover that pulling off an evening of fabulous food and incredible wine, Italian-style, is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to host.
Channel your inner Sophia Loren and follow these 5 tips for a festive and stress-free evening!
Tip #1: Have An Abundant Mindset
In Italy, they never say a man has had too much to drink. They simply say, “he hasn’t had enough food yet”.
In other words: don’t skimp on the food! Italians customarily prepare more food than they think they will actually need. Whether you are planning casual light bites for aperitivo, or a full 4 course traditional feast with antipasti, primi, secondi, and dolci, make sure you have plenty of food ready to go--- and of course, the same goes for the vino! Choosing delicious and refreshing wines that are inexpensive (in the wine business, we call them ‘quaffable’) means that you can truly stock up on volume without breaking the bank.
Learn how to put together an Italian Aperitivo Party here.
Tip #2: The Centerpiece of Every Italian Table is Wine
One surprising thing about Italy is that for a nation where vino is so central to the culture (they’ve been making wine since the Roman Empire after all), Italians tend to not overthink their wine selection. Usually they drink what is local to their region, and travelers often mention the ‘table wine’ at the local trattoria is often much better than anything they can buy stateside! Italians are born with an understanding of which agricultural crops grow the best in each region (tomatoes from Tuscany, eggplant from Sicily, truffles from Piedmont, etc.) and they tend to eat that way. In the world of wine, once you identify the ideal terroir for a certain grape variety where it grows the best, the rest is simple.
For a versatile, goes-with-anything white that will take you through the entire evening, Pinot Grigio from the Delle Venezie DOC is a flawless choice. ‘Delle Venezie’ covers wines made in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige and the Veneto; and is hands down the best place in Italy for the beloved white grape to grow. Our pick is Lagaria Pinot Grigio ($10), hailing from the foot of the Dolomite Mountains, where the high elevation and cool evenings give incredible minerality and freshness to the wine. Winemaker Franco Bernabei employs a vinification technique in which extended lees aging gives the wine added complexity. It’s got elegant floral and citrus aromas, a soft mouthfeel, and a crisp and dry finish.
For affordable, easygoing and crowd-pleasing reds, look for Primitivo from Puglia, Montepulciano from Abruzzo or Nero d’Avola from Sicily.
Tip #3: Serve Family Style
One of the most charming things about Italian entertaining is the joyful and convivial mood that family-style service encourages. It’s so fun to see everyone crowding around rustic wooden boards overflowing with prosciutto, salami, mortadella, and mountains of delicious cheese and fruit. And is there anything more festive than passing an enormous platter of pasta around the table and helping yourself to a heaping scoop? As a host, family-style service means less time fussing over composed plates, and more time to make yourself another spritz!
Tip #4: Keep It Simple, But Use High-Quality Products
There’s nothing about an Italian dinner party that’s high-maintenance--- no souffles that have to be perfectly timed for example, or courses that have to be paired with the perfect wines, or sauces that require a summer intensive at the Cordon Bleu to master. Keep your food and wine simple- but utilize the highest quality ingredients. Invest in beautiful olive oil, aged balsamic vinegar, organic produce, and lovely savory cured meats. The tantalizing simplicity of a salty, creamy chunk of pecorino drizzled with local honey is the perfect example. And why spend hours engineering a complicated pastry dessert when you can simply scoop out some gelato and have blissfully happy guests? When you have high quality products you don’t need to do much to make them shine.
Check out the guide to pairing Italian cheeses with wines here.
Tip #5: Style it Sleek or Rustic: Up to You!
In Italy, tradition lives side by side with innovation--- and you can go either way with your design touches for your party! The traditional side might be channeling rustic Tuscan-farmhouse style decor; think fresh flowers, flea-market pottery, mismatched vintage flatware, bowls of oranges on the table and plenty of candles. Or, you can go the opposite direction--- after all, this is the country that brought us Ducati and Ferrari, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana, Fellini and Antonioni. Black and white, graphic prints, and sleek and minimal touches can also create the perfect Italian vibe.
Thanks to Lagaria Pinot Grigio for sponsoring this post!