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Here is what you need to host an unforgettable Italian-themed dinner party: delicious, easy-to-make recipes for each course and Italian-themed decor. There are even Italian playlist suggestions to set the mood for our dinner party.  

Everything you need to easily host an unforgettable evening your friends will talk about for weeks. Buon appetito!

italian dinner party ideas dishes, pasta, olives, coffee, antipasta

Let’s Have An Italian Themed Dinner

Whether you’re planning an elaborate Taste of Italy or a simple family dinner for a special occasion, there are lots of options when it comes to planning the menu for your Italian feast.

Much of Italian food is made with simple ingredients that highlight the freshness of the foods.

When planning your own Italian-themed dinner party, consider setting the tables with traditional Italian decor, serving up your favorite Italian red or white wine, and add some Italian-themed music for the occasion.

Most importantly, choose a variety of recipes that showcase the foods commonly served in Italian cuisine.

hands serving pasta out of a pan

Italian Dinner Vocabulary

Traditionally, Italian dinners consist of many courses, typically more than those commonly served in the United States.

chalkboard menu written in Italian

Let’s start by learning some definitions of Italian dinner. Then, as you skim through the recipes below, you will find some Italian recipes that fit most of these different courses.

  • Aperitivo: Happy Hour – Aperitivo (or apéritif) is often described as being similar to the American happy hour or cocktail hour held before a dinner party. An aperitivo is more like a pre-meal drink specifically meant to whet your appetite.
  • Antipasto: Appetizer – It’s a little something to tease the taste buds before the main meal. When I was in Alasio, I was surprised to be served a small bowl of plain potato chips. It was clear that Italians love salty chips. 
  • Primo: First course – Again, another surprise. In America, we serve pasta as a main dish; however, in Italy, I was given some amazing pasta as another type of appetizer. They also served risotto or soup. 
    Secondo: The second course is the star of the show, often featuring a slice of delicious meat or seafood. 
  • Contorno: Side dish – Typically cooked or fresh vegetables served as a side to the main course.
  • Insalata: Salad – A delightful mix of greens, veggies, and dressing is served as a side dish with the meal. During my visits to Italy, I learned that Italian salads are lightly dressed compared to American salads, with the vegetables being the stars of the dish. 
  • Formaggi e frutta: Cheese and fruit – Served toward the end of a meal, a delightful assortment of cheeses and fresh fruits on a large tray to the table.
  • Dolce: Dessert – The sweet finale, a delightful treat to end the meal on a high note.
  • Digestivo con caffè: Digestive with coffee – A little after-dinner liqueur served with coffee to aid in digestion.

Free Italian Dinner Party Planer

I want to help make it easy for you to plan and host a great Italian dinner party. Be sure to grab a free copy of my Italian dinner party planner. I have a custom menu template, grocery list, and to-do list to help you not miss a detail and save you time.

OK, grab your free planner and a pen. Let’s start picking some recipes to create your Italian dinner party menu. If you see something you would like to try, tap the Get The Recipe button and print the recipe.

Then, after you decide on a menu, scroll down and browse through the Italian table and party decoration ideas. Oh, don’t forget to create your dinner party music Italian playlist with some of the suggestions I offer.

Aperitivo – Happy Hour

 Aperitivo (or apéritif) is often described as being similar to the American happy hour or cocktail hour held before a dinner party. An aperitivo is more like a pre-meal drink specifically meant to whet your appetite.

Two Minute Espresso Martini with Baileys
Espresso martini with Bailey’s is a two minute Italian cocktail and the best cocktail party drink recipe for the holidays!
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Shaken Italian Amaretto Sour
This classic Italian amaretto sour with a frothy egg white topping uses a dry and wet shaking technique and is made in under 2 minutes.
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amaretto in a glass
Ginger Pear Spirit Infused Cocktail
Make your own handcrafted infused fruit-forward spirits to create this delicious Ginger Pear Spirit Infused Cocktail Crafting your own spirits is easy and creates unique flavor combinations you cannot buy in a store.
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Ginger Pear Spirit Infused Cocktail with a cinnamon stick in the glass that has been lit with a little smoke coming off of it and a sprig of fresh pear on the rim
Sgroppino (Italian Prosecco Cocktail) |
Sgroppino is a Prosecco cocktail recipe from Italy made with vodka and lemon sorbet. Perfect for easy entertaining!
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Italian cocktail with a lemon

Antipasto – Appetizer Recipes

Italians typically serve antipasto appetizers on individual plates or in bite-sized pieces on a plate passed around the table. Common types of antipasti include marinated olives, cured meats such as prosciutto or salami, bruschetta, caprese salad, and various types of cheese.

Green Marinated Sicilian Olives Recipe
Bring a little Sicily to your table with this delicious Green Marinated Sicilian Olives Recipe. The olives are infused with fresh herbs, garlic, dried oregano, a pinch of chili pepper for heat all smothered in extra virgin olive oil and white vinegar dressing.
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Green Marinated Sicilian Olives Recipe in a bowl
Giardiniera Recipe
Enticingly tangy and crunchy, this Italian pickle is surprisingly simple to make with our easy giardiniera recipe. Serve as a quick appetizer, or add punchiness to sandwiches, salads, and more.
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Pickled Italian vegetables
Potato and Beef Tenderloin Bruschetta
Potato and Beef Tenderloin Bruschetta is a simple holiday appetizer that is also an easy gluten free recipe.
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beef tenderloin bruschetta
Italian Cheesy Pull Apart Bread
Crazy good and addictive this Italian Cheesy Pull Apart Bread is sure to be a crowd pleaser. The loaf is filled with a buttery garlic, pesto and Italian herb mixture then generously stuffed with mozzarella cheese to create each perfect bite for this pull apart Italian bread.
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italian cheesy bread
Roasted Garlic Grissini (Italian Breadsticks)
These delicious Roasted Garlic Grissini (Italian Breadsticks) are classic thing and long breadsticks packed with garlic flavor.
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Potato and Pancetta Pizza (Pizza Bianca)
This delicious pizza Bianca is topped with potato rounds, pancetta, mozzarella, and smoked Gouda and is flavored with rosemary. Give this authentic pizza recipe from the north of Italy a try. Trentino region.
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Primo – First Course

This first course traditionally includes pasta, soup, rice, or creamy risotto. While in the US, we often associate pasta as a main meal, in Italy, it’s the start of the meal.

Keep the portions small and make it self-serve. Let your guests know there is more coming, so they don’t fill up!

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce With Fresh Tomatoes
Treat your guest by serving a homemade tomato sauce dish. The rich, delicious flavor of this traditional marinara sauce is amazing. It is like stepping into a sweet Italian grandma’s kitchen. The aroma of tomatoes and garlic roasting creates the anticipation for the delicious bowl of spaghetti you soon will be eating.
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spaghetti on a plate
Turkey Bolognese Recipe
This classic Italian turkey bolognese recipe makes a hearty sauce to serve up with your favorite pasta. Tomatoes are slow cooked with onions, garlic, celery, carrots and lots of fresh herbs for a pasta dinner eveyone will love!
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Turkey bolognese recipe on a plate with chili pepper seeds and parmesan in bowls by it.
Authentic Cacio e Pepe (Three Ingredients Only!)
Delicious, authentic, three ingredient cacio e pepe from Rome! Creamy, luscious pasta that’s great for a weeknight dinner or date night anytime!
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Tuscan Minestrone with Orzo Pasta
Tuscan minestrone with orzo pasta has fresh seasonal veggies and greens, beans and pasta. A delicious and nutritious authentic Italian recipe. Top with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese for a bit more flavor!
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Testaroli Pasta Recipe
Testaroli is a unique, tasty, & traditional Italian pasta that you should be trying. Make a from-scratch pasta that some believe to be the first pasta ever made. Give it a try!
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Easy Homemade Ricotta Gnocchi with Lemon & Peas
Bright, fresh, and layered with ‘soft as a cloud’ gnocchi, this recipe is fabulous as a quick meal or planned dinner party dish!
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Gnocchi alla Sorrentina
From Sorrento a costal town between the Amalfi coast & Naples (Campania region). Gnocchi alla Sorrentina is an incredible Italian comfort food dish made with soft and light potato gnocchi baked in a rich and delicious tomato sauce with bubbling mozzarella cheese and fresh basil.
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Turkey Tortellini Soup
Italian comfort food in a bowl when you make this turkey soup with lemon and rich broth.
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turkey tortellini in a bowl
Rustic and Creamy Zuppa Toscana Soup (Instant Pot)
The famous copycat recipe for Zuppa Toscana Soup (Instant Pot) is loaded with creamy potatoes, spicy Italian sausage, and fresh kale. This Zuppa recipe makes a quick, hearty dinner the whole family will enjoy. The recipe gets its inspiration from the famous Zuppa soup served at Olive Garden restaurants. Easy and quick using your Instant Pot.
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Zuppa Soup with potatoes, sausage and kale in a creamy broth in a bowl

Secondo – Second Course Or Main Course

The main course, or secondo, often features a delicious meat or seafood dish. It is usually served in smaller portions compared to meals in the United States. Common options include roasted meats, fish, or poultry, often accompanied by a side of vegetables or salad.

Beer Roasted Pork Roast
A traditional, slow-cooked roast that gives you time to invest in something else, maybe to knead bread or to make a batch of ricotta tortelli
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A pork roast served up on a plate on the table.
Chicken Saltimbocca
Chicken saltimbocca is a twist on a traditional Italian dinner that pan-sears chicken cutlets with prosciutto and sage until juicy and flavorful.
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Chicken Saltimbocca
Peposo – Tuscan Red Wine Beef Stew – Inside The Rustic Kitchen
Peposo is a traditional Tuscan Beef Stew originating from Florence. It truly is the simplest stew you’ll ever make yet it has so much flavour. Made with garlic, lots of black pepper and a whole bottle of red wine, super delicious and perfect served with creamy polenta.
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Roast Pork Loin with Pears
Here it is a traditional Tuscan menu for Christmas, which includes crostini, lasagne, roast pork loin with pears and the typical Medieval Sienese sweets.
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Cheesy Baked Chicken Parmesan Meatballs Recipe
This Cheesy Baked Chicken Parmesan Meatballs recipe is a delightful twist on the classic dish. These flavorful meatballs combine ground chicken, Parmesan cheese, and Italian seasonings, all nestled in a rich marinara sauce topped with melted mozzarella cheese. Perfect for a family meal or when entertaining guests. These classic parm meatballs are sure to become a family favorite.
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Cheesy Baked Chicken Parmesan Meatballs in a cast iron skillet
Eggplant and Beef Meatballs Recipe
Your family will applaud your dinner when you make this delicious Eggplant and Beef Meatballs Recipe.
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eggplant meatballs in a a tomato sauce in a round bowl

Contorno – The Side Dishes

Common side dishes served with the main course in Italian cuisine include a variety of cooked or fresh vegetables, such as roasted potatoes, sautéed spinach, grilled zucchini,

Quick Italian Couscous
this easy hot and hearty Italian couscous. Makes a great side with a protein and can be tweaked with the bounty from any season.
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italian orzo
Easy Caponata Recipe, Sicilian-Style
You’ll love the combination of savory, sweet, and sour flavors in this creamy eggplant caponata with onions, tomato and olives. Great over crusty bread!
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caponata in a bowl
Stuffed Artichokes
Stuffed artichokes with parmesan cheese, garlic, parsley and crispy breadcrumbs. Make this easy stuffed artichoke recipe for a show-stopping vegetarian main or as a restaurant-worthy side dish.
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Stuffed artichokes any Dutch oven

Insalata – Salad

Insalata, or salad, is a side dish for an Italian dinner. It features a delightful mix of greens, vegetables, and dressing. Italian salads are lightly dressed compared to American salads, with the vegetables being the stars of the dish. Common types of salads include Caprese salad, mixed green salads, or salads featuring seasonal vegetables.

Antipasto Salad
This easy antipasto salad recipe with salami, pepperoni, olives, mozzarella, provolone, giardiniera, marinated artichoke hearts, and Dijon vinaigrette. An Italian salad everyone will love!
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And take off their salad with olive salami artichokes hours and greens
Panzanella Bread Salad
An easy Italian appetizer made with with crusty bread, cherry tomatoes, green olives, capers, fresh basil, then lightly tossed with a dressing of fresh garlic, olive oil, anchovies, and red wine vinegar.
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Red salad in a bowl with fresh tomatoes large crusty bread pieces Capers all dressed in a seasoning dressing
Italian Crunch Chopped Salad
A whole meal salad recipe built on top of a piece of crispy cheese garlic bread and topped with crispy prosciutto and tangy gorgonzola cheese.
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Italian Crunch Chopped Salad
Fresh Caprese Salad with Crispy Eggplant
Crunchy, golden brown eggplant that isn’t greasy, sandwiched between tomato and mozzarella, then topped with syrupy balsamic vinegar and bit of olive oil! It’s a tasty spin on the classic fresh tomato salad!
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Italian Arugula Salad
Italian Arugula Salad is an easy and quick salad that pairs well with chicken, fish, pasta or on top of pizza.
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Italian Arugula Salad
Summer Farro Salad
Summer Farro Salad is a delicious and easy salad made with hearty farro, olive oil, lemon juice, zucchini, peas, pesto, and freshly chopped parsley.
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Feral salad in a bowl tossed with a dressing and zucchini and peas with chopped fresh herbs mixed in
Creamy Italian Kale Salad
Sweet creamy dressing tossed with toasted pecans, tomatoes and crunchy cabbage create this wonderful and surprisingly Low Carb Italian Kale Salad.
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Kale salad with tomatoes pecans and cheese
Fresh Tomato Salad With Italian Herbs
If you need a quick and easy salad that reminds you of summer then try this Fresh Tomato Salad With Italian Herbs.
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If you need a quick and easy salad that reminds you of summer then try this Fresh Tomato Salad With Italian Herbs.

Formaggi e frutta – Cheese and Fruit

Italian Melon and Mozzarella Cheeseboard
This easy Italian style cheese board is filled with burrata, mozzarella, Tuscan melon, cantaloupe, prosciutto (aka Parma ham), cherries, nuts, and crackers!
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Italian Cheese Board

Dolci Italian Dessert Recipes

An Italian dinner party should definitely end with an amazing dessert! Here you will find several faves from super easy to more elaborate creations.

When I was in Italy, I spent some time with Giulia Scarpaleggia of Jul’s Kitchen. She is a charming chef with a heart for teaching the world how to cook authentic Italian food. Her stories and recipes are a delight.

She also taught me while I was in Italy an authentic Italian recipe for this slightly sweet biscotti with hints of orange, almonds, and honey.

Italian Almond Biscotti
Julia, from Jul's Kitchen, the famous Italian chef, teaches you everything you need to know to make Authentic Italian Almond Biscotti with this recipe. It's a classic Italian biscotti with a hint of citrus and almond flavor in a sweet, crisp cookie-like stick that turns out perfect every time.
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Biscotti on a saucer with coffee
Strawberry Tart with Elderflower Pastry Cream
A buttery shortcrust shell filled with an elderflower pastry cream filling and plenty of ripe strawberries, simply dressed with lemon juice and sugar it is a dessert that is sure to wow your guest.
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A strawberry tart on the table with a piece cut out on a plate.

She has a wonderful Italian cookbook full of beautiful stories, pictures, and great recipes. I highly recommend adding I Love Toscana to your collections.

Italian Almond Cookies (Ricciarelli)
Siena Tuscany. The easiest Italian Almond Cookies also know as Ricciarelli will transport you straight to the rustic streets of Siena. Soft and slightly chewy bursting with almond and orange and dusted with powdered sugar. You won’t believe how low prep they are and how easy they are to whip up!
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Easy Cassata Cake
An easier version of traditional Italian cassata cake, with tow citrus and honey-flavored sponge cakes layered with ricotta and chocolate.
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Cassata Cake

Digestivo con caffè: Digestive with Coffee

Italians serve outstanding coffee, especially after dinner, when it’s served with a little liqueur to aid digestion.

Creamy Brown Sugar Amaretto Coffee
Italy’s take on Irish coffee. Dark roast coffee spiked with amaretto and kissed with a creamy brown sugar topping. A festive after dinner drink!
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Amaretto Coffee
Nocino, a walnut Tuscan liqueur
Nocino is a Tuscan walnut liqueur made during Summer Solstice. This spiced bitter liqueur will warm the Autumn nights along with a roaring fireplace.
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Nocino, a walnut Tuscan liqueur
Italian Affogato Recipe – Ice Cream And Coffee
How to make an authentic Italian Affogato! A 5-minute dessert made with creamy vanilla gelato and a strong shot of espresso coffee!
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Italian Affogato Recipe - Ice Cream And Coffee

Italian Dinner Party Music

Create a playlist on Amazon Music or Spotify. Common Italian dinner music stars to create a list with could include Dean Martin, Rosemary Clooney, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, and Eros Ramazzotti, among others. These artists have a wide array of songs that provide the perfect soundtrack for an Italian-themed dinner party.

The Perfect Italian Dinner Music Play List is one of my favorites on Spotify.

spotify playlist for an italian dinner party

Italian Table Decorations

Rustic Italian Dinner Party Theme
This Vicarious Life sets the mood with a rustic Italian dinner theme. Natural elements such as wood placemats, dried leaf garlands on a simple white table cloth makes this an easy look to emulate. Use long thin breadsticks in a clear glass, sparkling natural mineral water and Moscow mule mugs for decorations. Fresh rosemary tied with twin
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italian dinner party table setting
Fall Italian Themed Dinner Party
Inspired by This shows how to create a table centerpiece using the vegetables you will be serving in your menu. This tablescape is created with cabbage, eggplant, tomatoes, artichokes, fresh herbs, and Italian bread. They are all placed on a large piece of wood. Fresh flowers are then placed sporadically about and in empty wine bottles used as vases. Very simple to do but elegant.
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olive and olive oil on a board

Style Me Pretty has a beautiful picture teaching us how to set up an olive bar for our party. A variety of olive oils, bottles of vinegar, olives, and fresh cubes of bread give your guest delicious choices to fill their plates with.

Italian Pizza Night!
Add a little pizzazz to your family’s Friday Pizza Night with tips for simple tablescape decor, drink pairings for adults and kids, and a table activity!
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red and white checked italian pizza party table decor
Rustic Wine Dinner Party
Rustic Wine Dinner Party: So easy, so fun, and classy to boot! Host a casual evening with friends, with wine, snacks, and togetherness.
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rustic wine italian party table with plates, glasses of wine and gift treat box
A Rustic Italian Dinner Party
Come along and let me show you how I created this rustic Italian dinner party tablescape for my monthly dinner club.
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rustic italian party table with baskets, and white dishes
How to Set a Creative Italian Dinner Table Party Theme
I’m sharing How to Set a Creative Italian Dinner Table for an Italian Dinner Party Theme with some fun DIY details.
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italian dinner party table with lemons and blue and white linens and plates
Italian Dinner Party
Here’s an Italian dinner party menu that’s fancy yet comfortable. This is the perfect dinner party for 6, 8, or more and vegetarian-friendly.
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italian dinner party table set ouside

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