Here is a classic Italian dinner party menu plan. An antipasto platter, zucchini flowers, tortellini with sage and butter, herb-crumbed fish and tiramisu.
Planning an upcoming dinner party? Why not plan a full-on, traditional Italian dinner party with these easy to make recipes? And who doesn’t like Italian?
Italian cuisine is also much simpler than some other cuisines, meaning less preparation time. In a nutshell it’s a safe choice and this Italian Dinner Party Menu Plan complete with recipes and wine suggestions will make entertaining easy.
Restaurants in Italy
Italians fully embrace get togethers with family and friends so they do like to make a night of it when going to a restaurant. They also tend to eat late.
You won’t find too many Italian restaurants open before 7pm, except in tourist areas. And if you arrive at that time you will be fairly lonely until about 8pm. Italians first like to start with aperitivos at a bar (not the restaurant) but I am getting ahead of myself.
At most Italian restaurants, you will find the following menu headings:
I will explain the above terms shortly. At a restaurant, Italians tend to drink wines but beer is also popular, especially in summer.
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DINNER PARTY MENU, complete with recipes!
Outside of tourist areas like Venice and Florence, wine and beer are very fairly priced in restaurants and cheap to buy at retail outlets. We were shocked in a pleasant way how cheap wine was to buy. Italy is the world’s number two producer of wine by volume. You can find out more about Italian wine and spirits here.
At restaurants, mineral water is almost mandatory, everyone seems to drink it. And it is also very good value. It’s an “upgrade” from drinking flat water. Some restaurants even had mineral water on tap (like beer)!
Before we get to the menu, what are the component parts for an Italian Dinner Party?
Formal Meal Structure
There are 10 courses for a formal, Italian meal for a festive occasion. But don’t worry, our traditional Italian Dinner Party won’t include all of these courses!
The aperitivo culture in Italy is classic. Around 5.30 or 6.00pm Italians head to their local bar. A bar is not the local pub but more like a café that serves coffee and alcoholic drinks all day.
An aperitivo is designed to stimulate the palate in readiness for the food to follow. Common aperitivos include campari and soda, prosecco and strawberries. Beer is also acceptable. Aperitivos are often served with light nibbles such as olives. Aperitivos may last 90 minutes or so. A good preamble for a traditional Italian dinner party, don’t you think?
The equivalent to starters and often served with more drinks. Antipasto may be combined with aperitivos. They should be more substantial than the nibbles served with aperitivos. They are usually cold or room temperature but may also be warm. Antipasto may also include salad, as we will be doing for Italian dinner party menu plan. We suggest you combine the Aperitivos, Antipasto and Insalata and serve all at the same time.
This is the first food course and you serve it hot. Primo is often pasta or risotto but can also be a soup. It is usually vegetarian. And, it should be more substantial than the antipasto but less food than the secondo.
The equivalent to the main course (entrée in the US). This should be the most substantial course and consists of meat or fish. There may be more than 1 type of meat or fish.
This is a side to accompany the secondo. Vegetables or salad are not placed on the same plate as the meat or fish on the secondo.
If there were no leafy vegetables in the contorno, then a garden salad would be served at this stage. Note that it is a palate cleanser and in a formal occasion is served after the secondo. We will be serving the secondo and insalata together in our traditional Italian dinner party.
Formaggi e Frutta
Cheese and fruit. The range of Italian cheeses is extraordinary. Serve with seasonal fruits.
This is the last food course. Italian desserts are luscious and our Italian dinner party menu plan will feature a dessert that most people are familiar with.
Italians always drink strong, espresso in the evening. Sometimes this can follow the digestivo.
After all this food you owe it to yourself and your stomach to partake in a little grappa or limoncello. We first came across digestives in Argentina where there is a very strong Italian influence and it was typically provided on the house. This is a great way to finish off the evening.
So without further ado here is the Italian Dinner Party menu. Click on the links to retrieve the recipes.
Italian Dinner Party
Italian Antipasto Platter
Parmigiano Reggiano with Balsamic Vinegar from Modena, Prosciutto and Melon
Caprese Salad (Buffalo Mozzarella)
We have featured previous dinner parties in some of our favorite travel destinations, if you need some inspiration for a great dinner party find our previous menus from:
- Turkey (the mezes are great);
- Italy (the tiramisu with grappa is a highlight);
- Patagonia (the dulce de leche crème caramel is sublime);
- Vietnam (beef noodle pho –one of the best soups you will ever have);
- Thai (make your own crispy, spring rolls);
- USA– (bbq and more);
- Laos and Cambodia – try the fish amok – a curry which is the national dish of Cambodia;
- Greek (make your own, healthy spanakopita);
- Spain (a great tapas menu)
- Peru (a great food reputation for having the best food in South America)
- Uruguay (simple and quick);
- Romania (hearty, traditional food);
- Tasmania (Australia)- healthy, fresh food.
And you can find lots of ideas for entertaining at home here.