It’s (almost) the most wonderful time of the year! You can feel it in the air – the holidays are coming! – and we’re all excited. As girls, my sister and I loved when our parents would bring out the boxes of holiday décor from the cellar. We’d stay up late, drink hot cocoa, and outfit the whole house with twinkling lights and real, fragrant wreaths.
In Italy, we know a thing or two about festivity! Now that we’re older, of course, my sister and I don’t skip around the house in holiday-themed footie pajamas, but we do spend lots of time together as a family around the holiday season. And when we do, we’re usually eating!
Italians have a reputation for festive, communal events, particularly around the holidays. It’s true: few things feel more warm and welcoming than an Italian table! Here are a few ways you can create your most festive holiday table ever in the spirit of the Italian tradition.
Invest in lighting that will illuminate the entire table in a rosy glow. In our home and at the Candoni De Zan winery event space we often use candles to accomplish this. Their light is soft and glowing and the flicker of flames creates a somewhat mystical atmosphere. If you can’t use candles, consider installing an inexpensive dimmer in your dining area, or play around with ambient light from adjacent rooms.
Ditch the kitsch for a more authentically festive environment. While Santa-themes runners and plates with embedded sparkles may seem fun in the moment, they’ll feel cartoonish at home. For a sophisticated, natural holiday table we like reds, golds, and cremes. A more neutral holiday palette means you can mix and match dishes and glasses and not worry so much about everything being “just so.”
Break open the bubbly and instantly invite a more convivial atmosphere. Prosecco is a favorite Italian sparkling wine and it’s made right here in the Veneto region! Moscato, a slightly fizzy, sweet wine is a great way to cap off dessert and encourage lingering. In between, several bottles of rich, spicy red wines will give everyone the warm-and-fuzzies and allow for a relaxed, celebratory mood! Just be sure to buy the right amount of wine for the number of guests you’re planning.
Serve food family style for the ultimate in shared festivity. An Italian table is rarely served with intricately plated dishes and in fact, colder holiday weather invites the kind of dishes – stews, braises, etc. – that are best served in one big pot. Giant serving platters of mixed food make for a more casual, open experience and they give the impression of “plenty” which is what the holidays are all about!
Invite extended family, the neighbors, the butcher, the mailman…you get the idea! Most Italians live in what can be described as “villages;” we get to know our neighbors and always live by the motto Più siamo meglio è: The more the merrier! If you know of a senior without family to celebrate with, a small family nearby, or even a stranger you’d like to include, invite them to your table. It’s the Italian thing to do!
We’d love to see pictures of your most festive holiday tables…we’re always looking for inspiration! From the Candoni De Zan home to yours, wishing you a warm, magical holiday season this year.
-Barbara Candoni De Zan