So you want to throw a true to the roots, authentic Italian dinner party for some of your closest friends. Sticking true to the traditions of an Italian meal, it is much more than throwing a plate of spaghetti on a red-checkered tablecloth. The meal itself should be served in a structured order of courses, or portate, and usually consists of no less than three courses and can sometimes be stretched to eight, depending on how special the occasion is. Here is the layout the meal should follow for your Italian themed dinner party if you want to stay traditional.
- Antipasto– while it means “before the meal” in Italian, this is technically the first course that is similar to appetizers in America. Just with any course of an Italian meal, there is no set of “rules” of what to include. Examples for your antipasto- crostini, bruschetta, salami, anchovies or calamari.
- Il Primo (First Course)– most often the antipasto course consists of cold dishes, and the primo course is usually a hot dish like pasta, risotto, gnocchi or soup. One of the most important aspects to enjoying an Italian meal is portion control. Because of the large number of courses to taste, keep the portions small, so your guests don’t fill up too early.
- Il Secondo (Second Course)- now comes the main dish, as Americans would refer to it as, of meat, fish or poultry. The type of meat that was served traditionally depended on what region of Italy the family was from. Fish- islands and coastal; veal, pork and chicken- northern; wild game- regions throughout Italy; beef- became more common after WWII.
- Contorno (Side Dishes)- usually served at the same time as the secondo, the contorno course consists of cooked vegetables. A salad is often served as well, which may seem a bit different since Americans typically serve salad before the main dish, not with.
- Formaggio e Frutta (Cheese and Fruit)- the first introduction of the dessert courses begins with cheeses and fruits paired together. This can help clean the diners’ palettes in preparation for the real desserts that will soon follow.
- Dolce (Sweet)- this is what American would call the true dessert course. Most often simple cookies or cakes are enjoyed, but depending on the occasion, more indulgent options like tiramisu or fresh cannoli’s are possible.
- Caffe (Coffee)- an after meal coffee or espresso is treated as a real course.
- Digestivo or Ammazzacaffe (Coffee killer)– nothing tops off a delicious traditional meal like a service of liquors or liqueurs limoncello, grappa or amaro.
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Extra touches to enhance the overall theme of your authentic Italian meal can include vibrantly colored serving dishes, white table clothes, a few candles and an abundant amount of quality wine. Nothing sets the mood better than some instrumental Italian folk music, arias from operas, or even some selections of Italian-American singers like Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra. However, the most important aspect to making your meal a success is the company you invite!
Before you throw your own Italian dinner, come see how it is done at Toscana Divino Miami, where you will experience the rich traditions of Italian cuisine, exceptional service, and authentic atmosphere. We look forward to having you.