Do you need some inspiration for planning an Italian Dinner party? I’ve got all my favorite Italian dinner party recipes, decoration ideas, and music tips in one place to help you create a festive Italian feast for a memorable dinner party.
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.
Italian Dinner Party Ideas
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. But most importantly, choose a variety of recipes showcasing the foods commonly served in Italian cuisine.
Italian Dinner Vocabulary
Traditionally Italian dinners consist of many courses, typically more than those commonly served in the United States.
Let’s start out by learning some Italian dinner definitions. Then as you skim through the recipes below, you will find some Italian recipes to fit most of these different courses in the list below.
Aperitivo: A small glass of liqueur enjoyed before the meal, like Prosecco or Campari.
Antipasto: A traditional Italian meal starts with something to nibble on, called an antipasto, which translates into English as “before the meal.” Can include hot and cold Italian appetizers like Italian cheese, sopprasatta, bread, and dressed vegetables.
Primo: In Italy, pasta is a first course, or primo, served as an appetizer, not as the main event. Soup, rice, and polenta are the other options for the primo.
Secondo: The main course is called il secondo, or the second course. Chicken, meat, or fish are the usual choices for the main dish, and portions are generally small. These main courses are usually fairly simple, especially if a rich pasta or rice dish precedes them.
Contorno: A platter of cooked or fresh vegetables usually accompanies the main course. This side dish highlights the simple goodness of the vegetable.
Dolce and Caffe: A dolce (or sweet) ends a traditional Italian meal. A caffe refers to coffee and its permutations. It’s a must with the dessert.
Digestivo: A “digestive” or after dinner liqueur like grappa and limoncello is often served at the end of a meal.
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!
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.
An appetizer in Italy is called an antipasto. It can be served hot or cold, cooked or raw.
Antipasti (plural form) can be served on individual plates, in bite-sized pieces on a plate that is passed around the table, or presented as an elegant centerpiece for everyone to share.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
Easy Entertaining Tip: How about having an Italian pasta bar meal? Serve different types of pasta shapes, spaghetti, cork, and bow tie. Then, have several sauces for toppings. Just add a simple salad and bread, and you have a wonderful Italian pasta bar meal.
Spaghetti Sauce With Fresh Tomatoes
Treat your guest by serving a homemade tomato sauce dish. The rich, delicious flavor of this traditionalmarinara sauceis 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.
This classic Italian turkey bolognese recipe makes a hearty and healthy 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!
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!
Stuffed Shells are a comforting, filling meal that makes the perfect meal for a large group. Large pasta shells are stuffed with a lemony-chive cheese mixture and topped with tomato sauce. They are baked to perfection and will warm you right up!
Gnocchi alla Sorrentina – Inside The Rustic Kitchen
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.
Creamy Asparagus Risotto: quick to make, really satisfying and actually healthy, when not drenched in butter and cheese. Unfortunately there is a drawback to risottos: basically, you’re not allowed to get it right unless you have an Italian grandma, and this is why I expect someone commenting that t…
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.
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.
Authentic 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.
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!
Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms are a perfect appetizer for your next party, full of garlic, toasted pecans, sundried tomatoes, spinach, and then topped with a citrus basil dressing. They are easy to make and you can make them ahead then bake just before a party.
✝️ Hospitality Tip: In the churches that Paul visited, meals were the setting for most, if not all, church gatherings. When serving an Italian dinner, bring up a discussion about Paul’s time in Rome. (Acts 28:11-31 )
Italian Dinner Party Music
Create a playlist on Amazon Music or Spotify. Italian-American flair would be hit by Dean Martin and Rosemary Clooney. You could add classical opera by Puccini, or a more contemporary sound with Eros Ramazzotti or Lucio Battisti.
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
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.
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.
Fantabulosity shares with us a cute idea for an Italian dinner party table setting that uses bread as decorations. In the background, you can see she rolled brown paper bags and used them as serving bowls; what a cute idea!