Last Updated on November 17, 2023 by Share My Kitchen
An Italian-inspired dinner party is about more than just wine and pasta. It’s about creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere where guests become family and share stories over plates full of Mediterranean delicacies. Whether you’re a seasoned dinner party host or you want to wow your friends on your first attempt, you can’t go wrong with an Italian theme for your next event. Grab some candles and decorations, a nice bottle of wine and your favorite Texas olive oil from Texas Hill Country Olive Co., and you’re on the right track!
Set La Tavola (the table)
The table is the first thing your guests will see when they arrive at your dinner party. Create the right setting for the decadent Italian dishes you prepared so that your guests can experience Italy with all their senses. Elevate your table by using a crips white tablecloth which will be the perfect background for your china. Opt for an ornate set with vivid blues, reds, or golden yellows. Set empty plates in advance, leaving plenty of room in the middle of the table for the large bowls and plates of food that are soon to arrive from the kitchen. For a touch of natural elegance, consider complementing your table setting with a natural linen tablecloth, adding warmth and texture to the overall aesthetic.
Place water and wine bottles (or decanters) on the table before your guests arrive. Choose glassware that either matches the color scheme of the china or is simple and elegant. If you know some of your guests don’t drink alcohol, be careful about what types of glasses you set in front of them. Place cards will help you when setting the table and are a perfect way to make your guests feel welcome. You can easily create place card holders out of wine corks to keep with the Italian theme and show off your DIY skills.
To complete the look of your Italian-inspired dinner table, use natural elements like citrus, flowers, and even olive branches. Bright yellow lemons can be added to the centerpiece for a splash of color and a fresh smell that won’t interfere with the food. For this reason, opt for flowers that don’t have a strong smell – sunflowers and daisies are great options. Create mood lighting and a cozy atmosphere with candles and twinkle lights placed all around the room. And last but not least, play Italian music in the background for a complete experience.
Plan Il Cibo (the food)
A proper Italian dinner party goes on for hours, so it’s no wonder it can have between five and eight courses. You can adjust the number of courses you serve to fit your schedule for the evening, but keep in mind that Italian portions are relatively small. Another important aspect to remember is that you should allow your guests to self-serve from the plates of food you bring to the table instead of pre-portioning the dishes in the kitchen. If any food is left at the end of the evening, you can let your guests pick their favorite and take some home.
The first course is called aperitivo and is traditionally made up of a drink (spritz is a classic one and easy to prepare) and some savory snacks. You can serve the aperitivo before guests even sit down at the table, while they meet and greet everyone who is attending your dinner party. Once everyone is sat down, you can bring out the second course – the antipasto. Put together charcuterie boards filled with a variety of cured meats, cheeses, fresh bread, and olives, and serve alongside bowls of extra virgin olive oil for dipping.
Il primo is the first warm course of the dinner and is usually a pasta dish. Keep it light and fresh as this course is still considered a starter. Opt for a recipe that doesn’t use meat; this way, if any vegetarians or vegans are attending, they can have a larger serving. This brings us to il secondo, the second warm course, which should feature meat. Chicken, fish, or lamb are fantastic options and are typically served with contorni (side dishes) – roasted or grilled vegetables and potatoes – and insalata (a simple, green salad seasoned with EVOO).
Formaggi e frutti is the last savory dish of the dinner and introduces some sweet flavors as well, preparing your guests for dessert. It consists of a selection of cheeses and some seasonal fruits. For il dolce (the dessert), you can prepare a tiramisu, cannoli, sfogliatelle, cantucci, panettone (ideally served around the winter holidays), tartufo, or babá al rum. However, if your previous courses are heavy, with a lot of flavors, panna cotta, ice cream, and gelato are better options.
Serving digestivi (sippable liqueurs such as limoncello or mirto) is a good idea for those of your guests who forgot to leave room for dessert but would still like to end the meal with something sweet. Coffee can also be served at this point if it’s not too late in the day or if you plan on keeping the party going for longer. Play a game of charades or trivia with Italian-themed prompts for a good laugh before your guests turn in.
Drizzle L’olio Di Oliva Del Texas (the Texas olive oil)
Olive oil is synonymous with Italian fine dining. Therefore, it should be used generously when preparing your dishes. High-quality EVOO can be found at local producer Texas Hill Country Olive Company and it tastes just as amazing as the one made in Italy. Place a few bowls of this golden liquid mixed with balsamic vinegar on the table so guests can dip fresh bread in it. Use it as a base for your pasta dish sauce, and to grill or roast your meats and vegetables. If you’re feeling adventurous, make your own olive oil ice cream and offer your guests some olive oil cocktails and mocktails. The possibilities are endless. Buon appetito!