Our first themed dinner night-in is Italian. (Head here for the French date night version). One of the most romantic places in the world to visit, Italy is also famous for its beautiful language, exceptional cuisine, passionate crooners and great cinematic history. Let us guide you through a night of cooking classic Italian dishes in tandem and then enjoying the fruits of your labors accompanied by great wine and an Italian-themed movie (our list of suggestions has a pick for every film buff type).
Setting. Our Dinner for Two Box is all you need to ensure that your place setting is on point! With all the romantic dinner essentials in tow, you will be able to turn your dining area into a romantic oasis that you will not want to leave even after the night is over. Light up the candles and tea lights, spread the petals across the table, turn on some Italian music in the background and you are immediately transported to an Italian romance movie set.
Music. We recommend downloading any of the albums by a modern Italian band by the name of Moda. The extremely passionate lead singer puts so much emotion into his performances that it is absolutely impossible to stay unmoved. If you are not in the mood for modernity, try building your own Pandora or Spotify station with classic songs by such Italian legends as Adriano Celentano, Eros Ramazzotti, Luciano Pavarotti or Andrea Bocelli.
Movie. Below is the list of our suggested movies for your Italian adventure:
- Letters To Juliet (2009): Is Letters to Juliet the most intellectually stimulating film ever? No. Is it just what you need in a romantic comedy set in Tuscany? Probably. Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) travels to Verona with her fiancé (Gael García Bernal), where countless lovers leave anonymous letters to Juliet. She finds an unanswered letter from 1957, and replies to the woman, now elderly and living in England. As a result, Claire Smith (Vanessa Redgrave) travels to Verona with her grandson (Christopher Egan) to track down her long-lost Italian lover.
- Under the Tuscan Sun (2003): When Frances Mayes (Diane Lane) learns her husband is cheating on her from a writer whom she gave a bad review, her life is turned upside down. In an attempt to bring her out of a deep depression, her best friend, Patti (Sandra Oh), encourages Frances to take a tour of Italy. During the trip, the new divorcée impulsively decides to purchase a rural Tuscan villa and struggles to start her life anew amid colorful local characters, including the handsome Marcello (Raoul Bova).
- La Dolce Vita(1960): In this Fellini we follow the restless meanderings of paparazzo Marcello Rubini. As he jumps from woman to woman, and pleasure to pleasure, we're given a portrait of a hedonistic lifestyle in the most beautiful city in the world: Rome.
- Cinema Paradiso (1988): Growing up in post-war Sicily, movies were more than entertainment for Salvatore Di Vita. They were an escape from the realities of his war-torn village, and a glimpse into the magic of the outside world. Now a famous director in Rome, a middle-aged Salvatore returns home for the funeral of the film projectionist who changed his life forever. This is a nostalgic, beautiful trip down memory lane, where great loves intermingle with great loss. It's likely that this Oscar winner will never go out of style.
- Life Is Beautiful (1998) is a bit heavy considering the subject matter but is a truly amazing masterpiece. It begins with the comic, light-hearted courtship between Guido (Roberto Benigni), a kind, goofy waiter, and Dora (Nicoletta Brasci). Five years later, Guido and Dora's lovely life with their son collides with the dark forces of history. After they're sent to concentration camps, Guido is determined to shelter his young son, Giosue, from the truth. With elaborate lies, Guido convinces Giosue that the camp is just one big game, and the winners will receive an armored tank.
- The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999): In this psychological thriller, a wealthy father sends Tom (Matt Damon) to Italy to retrieve his son Dickie (Jude Law), who’s lounging all day with his ex-pat girlfriend (Gwyneth Paltrow). But Tom isn’t Dickie’s Princeton classmate, as his father thinks. Tom's a master of deception who will do anything to socialize with the upper echelon.
- I Am Love (2009): Emma (Tilda Swinton) is a Russian native who married into the Recchi family, aristocrats who made their fortune in the textile industry. Could she have known, though, that as a Russian immigrant, she'd never truly be accepted? At this dinner, the patriarch transfers powers to the younger generation. In the days that follow in the Milanese mansion, we see how this impacts all the family members. Expect affairs, melodrama, and lush scenery galore.
What's on the Menu?
- Starter: antipasto charcuterie board
- Appetizer: tomato & basil bruschetta
- Main Course: spaghetti bolognese (classic meat sauce)
- Dessert: assorted gelato
Wine. Italy is famous for its wine. The rolling hills of Tuscany provide a perfect environment for the growth of various grape varieties that are later turned into amazing but affordable wine. Since you are enjoying multiple courses and will also need some red wine in the cooking process, we suggest you buy two bottles: a fresher crispier Barolo or Barbaresco for the starter and appetizer and a full-bodied red Chianti to complement the pasta.
Antipasto Charcuterie Board
A great start to your Italian dinner, an antipasto charcuterie board is a trendy way to arrange a sampling of various Italian finger foods. Nibbling on these bites will comfortably get you through the cooking process.
Arrange the following ingredients on a large wooden charcuterie / cheese board:
- Fresh seasonal fruits – figs, pears, apples and grapes work best;
- Italian cheeses - our favorites are Pecorino Toscano, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Burrata, Mozzarrella, Provolone or Caciocavallo;
- Italian meats - our favorites are any of the varieties of Prosciutto, Salami and Soppressata;
- Olives - if your supermarket does not have a fresh olive bar, a small canned jar of Italian pitted olives will do;
- Almonds, pistachios and other nut varieties to taste;
- Cornichons (mini crunchy pickles that will go really well with the meats);
- Small jar of fig jam or honey;
- A loaf of fresh Ciabatta or Focaccia bread. If your supermarket does not carry these varieties, a French baguette is also a safe bet;
- Bread sticks - whether plain, salted or covered in sesame seeds, bread sticks are a great crunchy addition.
An Italian cuisine staple, bruschetta is an easy but refreshing and delicious appetizer perfect for tantalizing your taste buds before the main course.
Ingredients: 4 ripe vine tomatoes (diced), small bunch of fresh basil leaves, 1 large minced clove of garlic, 1 tbs of balsamic vinegar, 2 tbs of olive oil, pinch of salt and ½ tsp of dried oregano, 6 slices of toasted ciabatta or baguette.
Directions: combine all the ingredients in a a medium bowl. Mix well and let the mixture marinate in the fridge for at least 10-15 minutes. Spoon the mixture on top of toasted bread right before serving.
Even though the list of ingredients for this famous meat sauce is lengthy and the cooking process takes over 2 hours, this main course is a perfect opportunity to prepare everything in tandem and then enjoy the starter and the appetizer and watch a movie while the main dish simmers fragrantly in the background.
Meats: 4 oz diced bacon or pancetta (approximately 6 slices), 1 lb ground beef or ground veal, ½ lb pound pork sausage or ground pork.
Vegetables: 1 ½ cups chopped yellow onions; ¾ cup diced carrots; ¾ cup diced celery; 1 tbs minced garlic; 3 tbs chopped fresh parsley leaves.
Spices: 1 tsp salt; ½ tsp ground black pepper; 2 bay leaves; ½ tsp dried thyme; ¼ tsp dried oregano; ½ tsp ground cinnamon; ½ tsp ground nutmeg.
Grocery: 1 tbs olive oil; 2 tbs tomato paste; 1 cup red wine (Chianti will work); 2 (14 ½ oz) cans crushed tomatoes and their juice; 1 (14 ½ oz) can tomato sauce; 1 cup beef or chicken stock or broth; 2 tsp sugar; 1 lb spaghetti or penne pasta.
Dairy: ¼ cup heavy cream; 2 tbs unsalted butter; 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan.
Directions: prepare all the ingredients according to the ingredient list so that they are diced and ready to go. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until browned and the fat is rendered, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the beef and sausages, and cook, stirring, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring, to deglaze the pan and remove any browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pan, and until half of the liquid is evaporated, about 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and their juices, the tomato sauce, beef broth, and sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, to keep the sauce from sticking to the bottom of the pan, until the sauce is thickened and flavorful: set your timer at 90 minutes.
Now it’s time to enjoy your choice of movie accompanied by a glass of wine.
Twenty minutes prior to the sauce timer signal, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and return the water to a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the noodles from sticking, until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain in a colander. Once the sauce timer beeps, add the cream, butter, and parsley, stir well, and simmer for 2 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and adjust the seasoning, to taste. Remove from the heat and cover to keep warm until ready to serve.
Add the pasta to the sauce, tossing to coat. Add ½ cup of the cheese and toss to blend. Serve with garlic bread and red wine.
Cooking a full three-course Italian meal can be exhausting so we picked Italian ice cream, also known as gelato, for dessert. You should be able to easily find a great selection of these refreshing palate cleansing ice creams at your local grocery store.
Now that we have guided you through an Italian themed night-in, make sure to check out our other themed dinner nights to replicate this great experience with another cultural flavor.