Hosting a party is hard work: it involves planning, creativity and some ingenuity. What I learned from Italian relatives is one thing- the more food the better! It's always better to have leftovers then to run out! Che brute figura!
My type A organizational skills, flair for decoration and ability to delegate (and by delegate I mean be really bossy) got me an invite to plan and execute my best friend Yasmin’s engagement party! We still threw a chic, Manhattan summer party on a West Village rooftop on a NYC budget!
First things first, the DON'Ts:
Mistake a budget for poor quality
Display chips or nachos- let's keep it chic with grainy crackers, crostini, or cheese twist sticks
Leave purchased foods in their original containers-take it a step further and serve store-bought hummus in your own bowl, or make your own!
Use white plastic utensils – try gold or silver for a luxe look, and consider using real utensils for a smaller party.
Cover tables with plastic- use fabric runners to add color or texture, and add fresh flowers or seasonal fruit as centerpieces.
Overstock the bar - more options need more mixers. Try using a signature drink- my favorite for late afternoon party is Aperol Spritz or Port Tonic Spritzer (learned this cocktail in Portugal). Yasmin chose Prosecco as her signature drink.
Underestimate your ice requirements - particularly if there is not enough fridge space, especially in the summer.
Under supply garbage bags and paper towels- guests will spill and make a mess, especially with the bubbly and cocktails!
Use votive candles at dusk or in the evening. If the sun is out, use fresh flowers- if you want to save money buy a few dozen and display them over the table- that’s what I did at this party! You can also use fresh seasonal fruit as table decor - strawberries, tangerines or pomegranates for the Fall!
Flow of the room:
Set up tables to help guests flow through the room. Guide your guests from an appetizer table to a table with main proteins. Serve dessert at the end of the night so that it doesn’t sit out too long. Don’t be afraid to place fruit throughout the tables to serve as decor and palate cleanser. Provide plates and utensils at each table.
Prepare the Menu: Make it Seasonal
Preparation. Make sure to plan your menu well before the party, and time the flow of the food. Choose foods that are easy to assemble so you are not locked in the kitchen. Make at least one thing that is homemade- I made my special pesto and took time to hand each guest a taste of it on a cracker.
Classic Cheese Board. Use a minimum of three cheese- try hard, soft and semi soft. You can pick a theme, such as a certain country, or you can mix it up! Add slices crusty bread and seasonal fruit as a palate cleanser. My favorite is a Taralli Cheese Board, watch here!
Salumi Board. Choose 3- Proscuitto di Parma is a classic, but you can also try hard salumi and Mortadella or Testa depending on how adventurous your guests are. Add olives or a bowl of pesto to this board to complement the savory flavors. Watch my video on making the perfect salumi board + broccoli rabe crostini here!
Hummus or Special Guacamole with Radishes. Try your hand at hummus with Kalamata olives, or make a semi-homemade version by removing store bought hummus from its container and mixing with crudite in your own bowl. You can also create a beautiful Tomato and Basil Bruschetta Board.
Skewers. Use long skewers to add drama! Try a caprese, grape olive, basil and bocconcini (small mozzarella) skewer; a watermelon feta skewer; or a grilled shrimp and pineapple skewer!
A BIGGGGG Salad! Mix an elegant arugula salad with seasonal fruit (I used watermelon) and add cheese (I used feta) and topped with a simple lemon dressing.
Two Main Proteins. I chose Shrimp Cocktail and Steak and added peaches, zucchini and corn (choose seasonal veggies). Use a cast iron grill for an indoor party. You can also try shrimp in endive boats with pesto!
Dessert. Try something refreshing like fragolina, soaked strawberries with mint and whipped cream (see video here). Italians love to use fruit as dessert, particularly in the summer since it is so refreshing! This was a big hit!
Great Places to Buy: