21 August, 2006

Una Notte in Italia

Benvenuto! As you can see, we survived the dinner party. Or shall I say, I survived the dinner party and Mr. Monogram is lucky to have survived the wrath of me due to his neglected “to do” list that he didn’t begin working on until the day OF the actual party, thus leaving monogram momma slaving away inside without help. Well I take that back, thank God for good neighbors. I must have looked especially rough and irritated when I saw my neighbor Rebecca because next thing I knew, she was in the kitchen washing and cleaning strawberries with me and slicing the bread and helping me prep. So I’m sending out lots of love vibes out to my fabulous neighbor for lending me her extra set of hands and bailing me out of my last minute hysteria.

Anyhow, back to the party. As the title of today’s entry suggests, after much debate, Mr. Monogram and I finally, FINALLY decided our theme for the evening was going to be Una Notte in Italia, or in English, One Night in Italy. The invitations I printed up were simple but cute, exactly what I was going for. I had a difficult time finding something that wasn’t over the top obnoxious with an Italian theme. Because we had a fair amount of people (nearly 20), I decided to do a modified dinner party. We rearranged my 7’ Italian farmhouse style kitchen table in the kitchen and put all the chairs in the garage to accommodate the food and make a very eye-appealing buffet, and then offered two seating choice. Either al fresco (outside), or inside in the formal dining room. Those choosing to dine inside, were treated to formal table settings w/ our fine bone china and sterling silver flatware, and those dining al fresco, dined on our casual everyday Italian styled dinnerware with everyday stainless flatware. I had the tables all prepared and set, so people could choose their table and seat and know which dining option their plate coordinated with. And I must say it worked out rather well! For my serving dishes, I used all of my Italian pottery that I have bought and painstakingly carried back with me each time we’ve been to Italy, and then also used additional fun pieces for decorating the table to match my Italian theme.

For instance, In the kitchen, I keep two small step stools, which are painted to look like vintage Italian postcards from Milano and Roma. You can see here how I took one, placed it on it’s side, and put a pewter serving tray for appetizers on top to give me not only additional table decoration to match my theme, but also to give me another height and level to my food (if you are just now joining us, I have mentioned before that I do not believe in putting all the food out on the buffet table at the same height). For additional heights, I also used my Southern Living hurricane’s that are two different heights and have a Tuscan patina, to hold sauces for the calamari and filet bites. And at the far end of the table I turned another Southern Living fluted green serving dish upside down, that is also very Italian looking, and placed my glass bowl with my Ciliegine & Tomato Insalada so again, I was able to achieve some height, but also more color and appeal to the table. At that same far end, you can see from the pictures I also included very old Italian family wedding photo’s in black and white. Magnifico!

As for my floral arrangements, I was trying to keep everything red, white, and green, (the colors of the Italian flag), so I opted for red gladiola’s and lots of pretty green ornamental kale. Inside my matching cylinder vases, I filled them with green split peas (yes, THE green split peas) and white lima beans. I will say, after the “great green pea disaster” as we not so affectionately refer to it, it took a near covert spy operation for me to sneak these split peas back into the house for decorating again, but I managed (although Mr. Monogram was most unhappy about their decorative reappearance). In addition to the three large floral centerpieces, I also placed individual gladiola blossom’s in short small round vases that were also filled with split peas and lima beans and placed them sporadically on my buffet table as well as on the dining table outside just to continue with my Italian color scheme and theme, and to add additional color.

Now, let’s talk about the beverages. As you know, I always prefer a signature drink to every themed dinner party or event I’m hosting, and this was no exception. So naturally, my signature drink was homemade Limoncello which is something else we also hand-carry back from Italy (my husband’s cousin always sends us back to the states with plenty made from the family recipe) in large quantities. Now, Limoncello is actually an after-dinner drink to aid in digestion (or so we say, anyway), so for our main beverages, we stuck with all Italian wines, and Peroni Italian beer (these men are definitely more of a beer drinking crowd), naturally displayed in our monogrammed drink tin and also my Southern Living beverage cooler.

And the music, you ask? Well this was also very carefully selected because you know it has to match the party theme as well! If you're going to do a theme party, you must take it all the way. So I threw in a nice mixture of CD's in the CD changer that included Bella Luna and Dinner in Italy (some traditional Italian dinner music), and then also added in some favorites by Luciano Pavorati, Louie Prima, Frank Sinatra, and Rosemary Clooney to name a few. But what really made the music stand out and be such an integral part of the evening, was the placement of all the wireless speakers. I placed one behind the front door so it was prominant when our guests entered the front door and also for those dining in the dining room, then another outside hidden behind my pots on the back deck, and then with the rest of the speakers inside the house echoing through the family room, living room, and kitchen, the music was the perfect addition to give me the ambiance I was looking for.

Buon Appetito! So without further adieu, what you’ve all been waiting for…. The menu. So here it is.

So my friends, with all the various details laid out for you, I also wanted to mention a few little things I was taking mental notes about during my planning prep on Saturday. So alas, here are a few nit-picky dinner party tips from monogram momma before I send you on your way this morning. Take 'em or leave 'em, the choice is yours, but here they are none-the-less.

-Always wipe down the outside of your appliances. Perhaps no one will notice, but you sure will, and you better believe monogram momma will notice as well if she is at your party as well!

-Look, I know you love your children’s artwork as much as I love my children's, but when entertaining, I always take it off the refrigerator and place it neatly in a drawer. It is just an unnecessary distraction and while perfectly fine for everyday (in modesty of course, I mean, don’t wallpaper the entire kitchen with it), it really takes away from your kitchen if left for a dinner party. The next morning, be sure to take them back out so your little one's can see that it’s still there.

-if you are hosting a non-child friendly dinner party or event, please make sure you have a babysitter for your own children to keep them upstairs and entertained. It is most rude and inconsiderate for you to expect your guests to make babysitting accommodations for their children, and then for you not to have someone to keep your own children out of the party as well. This is just another example of being “polite and fair.” No, I don’t care if your own kids go to bed at 7:30 as the mini monograms do, it is still rude to expect your guests to get babysitters for their children when yours are running around trying to be the belles of the ball so to speak for the hour before they go to bed. I promise you you’re guests don’t think it’s half as cute as they are pretending to think it is. This is one of those all or nothing deals. All children are invited to be there, or NO children are invited to be there (and please don’t get me started on people bringing their babies to baby showers or bridal showers to take away attention from the guest of honor).

So now with this event behind me, I must move onto the next. And while I've got some really great projects on the horizon to share with you this week, I do hope you enjoyed my tour through Una Notte in Italia. Buon giorno!


Maureen said...

WHat a spread and from the pictures all looks wonderful. You are quite the party giver.

Ashley said...

Wow- you have really outdone yourself! I feel like all my future dinner parties will pale in comparison! Maybe I will just fly you up here to help :)

Monogram Momma said...

Yes, I am always happy to help out, all you have to do is provide my ticket and a warm bed. And that's a small price to pay if you ask me! ;-)

PreppyPoppy said...

Bravo, your dinner party was so special you would think it was Christmas, I say this as a complement. Your post was so chalked full it took me three different settings to read the entire post (had to do some work today while on the clock) If I was your school teacher you would definitely get a gold star by your name

Monogram Momma said...

Thanks, Poppy! Yes, sorry about the long posts. At a readers request, I have started spacing out the paragraphs though so it should be a tad easier to read and come back to! Thanks for the gold star, I will wear it proudly today!

pattiv02 said...

Would you share your Limoncello recipe? How did you serve it? Thanks!