One of the reasons Italy has been such a good fit for me is that its cultural, day to day lifestyle really allignes with what I’ve come to find to be priorities my in life. One of these things is spending quality time with friends, with no frills or fuss needed. Although I’ve experienced my share, I’ve never really liked ragging parties. I’ve always felt much more in my element at a lower-key dinner party/get-together setting (which would seem natural, seeing as I’m almost 30, but I’ve felt this way since I was 16)! There’s nothing I love more than sitting around a table with good company, eating, drinking and talking for hours. This also happens to be a very recession-friendly option for a weekend night, especially here in Italy where food cooked up by a friend can be as good or better than eating out (it helps to live in a country where being a foodie is part of your cultural identity)!
this is a bit on the fancy side for a get-together with friends, but sometimes it’s nice to reap the benefits if your friends like to experiment in the kitchen (this is Fabio’s prune-stuffed pork loin with oven roasted potatoes)
So, needless to say, I’ve come to really look forward to every dinner we plan with friends. They are usually very casual where the person hosting cooks up at least two courses (antipast, primo and/or secondo) and the guest will usually provide the wine and dessert that is typically an assortment of cakes or pastries from the local pasticceria (bakery). The food is never pretentious or over the top, most of the time what’s served are very modest dishes with simple ingredients, usually one of their mama’s specialties (and sometimes, in the case of sauces, mama made it herself)! Guests usually arrive around 8 o’clock and are usually sitting at the table with a drink in hand in less than 5 minutes. If there’s antipasti, it’s usually ready on the table when you arrive and there’s a con calma (take your time) progression through the courses. This, incidentally, causes you to typically end up eating more this way, but you let yourself off the hook because A), it’d be rude if you didn’t finish your plate and B), the food’s ususlly really good so even if you’re full you can make the sacrifice. Dessert is usually brought out at 10 along with the host’s collection of digestivi (grappa, sambuca, montenegro) which are said to aide digestion (could be true…could be another excuse to work juuust another drink into the day…either way, it’s a tradition I’m happy to take part in). The conversation continues late into the evening and usually by the time you’re getting up from the table to leave it’s after midnight. No fancy gimicks, no distractions (although there is occasional briscola card-game tournament or karaoke sesh). Obviously, in the beginning, when I didn’t understand 90% what was being spoken around me, these evenings were tortuous and I’m sorry to say I dreaded them (the epitome of feeling along in a crowded room), but thankfully those days are behind me now that I can hold my own and join in the conversation. I always look forward to our next dinner.
our pizzaiolo for the night, working two ovens at a time!
Last Wednesday we gathered on a friend’s patio to have a pizza-fest. My husband happens to be a pretty amazing cook (I’m no dummy, I know how to pick ‘um) and he happens to specialize in pizza making. For now his dad still makes the dough (the yeast-factor is very tricky and if something’s out of balance you can end up with major indigestion and no one wanting to sit next to you on the bus the next day) but Fabio handles the rest. For this particular evening, 24 fat little dough-balls were prepared as were an assortment of toppings for both the schiacciata (Tuscan for bruschetta) and the pizzas which included sausage, ham, sardines, mushrooms, onion, mozzarella di buffala, red bell peppers and hot peppers. Our hosts Margherita and Enrico set up a perfect pizza-making-staging area near the table on the patio where Fabio continued to cook pizza split by everyone well into the evening (it’s okay, he loves it and he’s got the energy for it)! Dessert were these almost-too-beautiful-to-eat little cakes that ranged from lemon custard to tirramisu. I thought about taking a photo, but these little babies were gone before I could whip my iphone out!
All in all another great night with yummy food and awesome company!
Margherita serves up a pizza “Margherita” (what a quinkidink)! It’s a pizza with red sauce, mozzarella di buffala and basil. This patriotic pizza (notice it’s colors?) was first cooked up in Naples in honor of the queen (you can guess what her name was).