Dusk is coloring the sky with ochre color and tone down shades of red, the evening will be arriving soon, the aroma of food is filling the home, the clink of wine glasses and flatware is making the air festive.
You just get dressed beautifully, take a bottle or two of wine, or dessert as a gift to the host and show up at 7:00 pm at your host’s door. If the invitation comes from an Italian family, be ready to do some serious eating and enjoy the most delicious food always prepared by the host.
In Italian homes the dining table is never decorated in a fussy way with useless objects on it. The table is dressed for food, Italian people entertaining with tasty simplicity, but they get you with food. The menu valorizes quality, variety and simplicity. Appearance of food is an important part of what makes our food so appetizing, especially when the table is filled with food of bright vivid colors. Food is the most important subject in the Italian culture. We get up in the morning and we already talk of what we are going to eat for lunch, or dinner. Shopping for food falls in the daily chores and in between work, family and errands.
We take out our small trolleys to the market and fill it with fish, vegetable, charcuterie, meat, cheese (let’s not forget the cheeses, please) and fresh breads. It seems like a whole lot of food, but it will last for a few days. A few items are bought daily, the majority will serve to make the simplest and most flavorful food.
Let’s go back to dinner at 7:00 pm. When you get invited by an Italian family at 7:00 it always means dinner, not after dinner drink get together, as some people think. In fact a few days ago, some friends of mine were telling me about their disappointment when they invite people of different race in their home for the evening and they come with a full stomach with the answer is “sorry we already ate, we can’t eat anymore”. Imagine how the host feels after cooking all day and really looking forward to sit down with friends to relax. And how about all that food that goes untouched, not good. My suggestions was to specify that the invitation is for dinner and not for goofing around after dark. On the other hand, those people who eat at 5:00 in the afternoon might think that dinner at 7:00 pm is too late and refuse the invitation. Oh well, we can’t please everybody. Italians love to eat dinner with the moon rays, not sun rays.
Dinners in the evening will extend well into the small hours of the night. It starts with an apéritif and hors-d’oeuvres of different kind, wet with prosecco sparkling wine. Conversation, jokes and laughs fill the air until every guest is in. Then the real dinner start, either sitting down or self-service type, in either case, the plates are ceramics and the cutlery are not plastic. This is for the respect of the guests and for the respect of food.
Dinner consists of many different courses from pasta or rice, fish or meat and various vegetables.
Wine, wine and wine is served.
In the winter the fireplace is on making the evening really cozy, in the summer all the windows and doors to the balconies are open to get the fresh breeze in.
Conversation shifting from politics to religion, from gossip to intellectual subjects keeps the night young. Italians love to talk about everything, political correctness is not the center of their world.
The evening dinner ends with a cart filled of cheeses to roll around the guests, more wines to pair with the cheeses variety and later, the same cart will bring the desserts, cookies or pastries. Thank goodness Italian sweets are not that sweet so we can indulge in more than one portion. Conversation continues smoothly with coffee, teas or more wines for people like me who don’t drink coffee at night.
At this point, soft music comes on, some guests will leave and some will remain, but those who will stay will enjoy a very nice glass of Port, Whiskey or Brandy culminating the conversation in something really intellectual, pleasant and interesting.
It’s an honor to eat at someone’s dining table, breaking bread together is an act of sharing love, intimacy and friendship since the beginning of time.
Copyright © 2011 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She loves to remodel homes and loves to turn ugly spaces into castles, but especially loves to design kitchens and wine grottos.
She is the author of two regional Italian cookbooks available in this site at the Books Page:
Come Mia Nonna – A Return To Simplicity – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lnq8baaAq0M
Sins Of A Queen – Italian Appetizers and Desserts