I’ve talked a lot recently about the Long Italian Lunch series I am looking to run in 2019. Sunday 28 October was an opportunity to ‘test run the beast’ and to give a few lucky punters the opportunity to be first at the table in a little launch party.
The idea is simple: I prepare a 5 course Long Italian Lunch for you and up to 12 guests; you and up to 12 guests eat, drink and be merry.
The long Sunday lunch is an Italian custom where often make-shift tables would be set up, usually outside on a glorious day, and the good Italian mamma would take pride in serving up course after course to feed as many people as could possibly squish around for a spot at lunch. It was a family affair, but Italian hearts, larders, stomachs, and tables are ever expanding and accommodating: family would extend to friends, neighbours, families and friends and neighbours of friends and neighbours… You get the idea.
Lunch would usually start around 12:30pm and the courses would be structured in a way to ensure ease of digestion despite literally eating your way through the alphabet, well, at least from aperitivo to digestivo. Of of Italy’s greatest pastimes is the aperitivo, think of it as ‘cocktail hour’ where an aperitif (usually alcoholic, and may be as simple as a glass of wine or prosecco, or as fancy as a Spritz) would be served to help ‘open the appetite’ (aperitivo is drawn from the word ‘aprire’ which means ‘to open’). Snacks, such as olives, crisps or taralli might be served alongside the beverage to get you in the mood for eating.
Antipasto would follow to formally begin the meal. Think cured meats, bruschetta, crostini, cheeses, pickled vegetables…
The primo, or first course, is typically the pasta course, though it might also extend to risotto or polenta dishes, and is typically free from any meat; meat is hero of the secondo (second course) which is served with some simple sides (contorni) such as potatoes, sauteed greens or spinach, roasted vegetables. Depending on the nature of the contorni, a fresh salad (insalata) would also be served to help digest what tends to be the heaviest course of the meal.
After a little break, you could expect fresh seasonal fruits and local cheeses before you have even thought about dessert! Think of the fruit and cheeses as dessert starter, something to help you prepare for a tiramisu, cake, tart, panna cotta or any range of Italian favourites (did someone say cannoli or rum baba…?) An espresso coffee (no milk, but maybe sugar) would follow in earnest, and you might be presented with some biscotti on the side (in Italy, biscuits are not a dessert, they are basically a garnish to your coffee) that you would happily dunk into your coffee, or even your glass of wine (yes, you’re still drinking wine at this point!) or perhaps into your shot glass containing a digestivo, perhaps a limoncello, amaro or similar, which is designed to round off your meal and help you digest.
By this time, it would be close to 4:30pm and you will have spent the last 4 or 5 hours indulging in all that is good about Italian food, gossipped about the local goings-on, talked about your week gone and the week ahead, won or lost the farm – or at least your pride – in games of bocce or scopa, and you will be just about ready for a little passeggiata before returning home to get yourself ready for the week ahead.
Aldo In Cucina’s Long Italian Lunches will offer a taste of the tradition and atmosphere of the Italian Sunday lunch and will be exclusive events, by appointment only and subject to availability. The 5 courses will include:
- Aperitivi – including a beverage and snacks on arrival
- Antipasto – an entree
- Primo piatto – featuring homemade fresh pasta, risotto, soup or polenta
- Secondo piatto and contorni – a main course with sides
- Dolce – a dessert
- Coffee – Italian machinetta coffee served espresso style
- Digestivo – a homemade or locally produced Italian style liqueur
There will be a range of products available, for example, lunch offerings inclusive or exclusive of wine, and all dietary restrictions can be catered for.
The lunches will also feature locally produced Italian-style wines from South Australian boutique winemakers. I am in talks with some winemakers in the Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley about hosting some Aldo In Cucina Italian food events at their cellar doors in 2019 which I am very excited about exploring further. More news on that as it comes to hand!
In the meantime, read about all about the first ever Aldo In Cucina Long Italian Lunch to find out what we ate, what we drank, and more importantly, what to expect at an Aldo In Cucina lunch!
THE FIRST LUNCH
Sunday 28th October 2018 welcomed the launch of the Aldo In Cucina Long Italian Lunches. Tables were arranged outside and dressed in a homely and rustic style, while the bossa nova sounds of Italian artists such as Marchio Bossa enhanced the ambiance.
The weather could not have been more perfect for sitting in the courtyard to enjoy course after course of Italian home-cooked food with an Aperol Spritz and glasses of Prosecco and Pinot Grigio (Artwine Estate, Adelaide Hills) and Montepulciano (Tscharke’s Wine, Marananga) to complement each course.
Antipasti included cured meats and slices of provolone, a caprese salad showing off those glorious Italian colours and dotted with salty caperberries, zucchini carpaccio, and a Tuscan cannellini, butter bean and chickpea dip with toasted crostini.
I presented a standard menu as well as a vegan menu which put my pasta-making to the test: egg fettuccine for some, and hand-rolled vegan Tuscan pici for our vegan friends, both served with a sweet slow-cooked tomato and basil sugo.
I believe the best way to eat is when large dishes of food are placed on the table and guests help themselves. It inspires conversation and fosters the spirit of sharing. That’s how Aldo In Cucina Long Italian Lunches are planned, so be prepared to pass dishes back and forth and go back for seconds and thirds!
An Easter-style lamb and potatoes dish followed with sauteed spinach and a radicchio, pear and parmesan salad – and a tri-colour sweet potato, chickpea and pumpkin bake infused with Tuscan herbs.
All eyes were on dessert: two cakes; a vanilla bean, white chocolate and fresh strawberry ciambella with a lemon drizzle, and a vegan strawberry and red wine cake, proving that Tscharke’s Montepulciano is a a great all-rounder! The vegan cake was a hit even with the non-vegans; I think you can pretty much make people eat anything if you tell them that it is made with wine!
Another South Australian star shone at the table as we rounded off the meal with a limoncello from Ambra Liqueurs as our digestivo of choice.
All guests went home with a little goody-bag including the recipe for the the ciambella to make at home, and some homemade almond biscotti.
Happy faces, full tummies, and empty wine bottles at a lunch that started at 12:15pm and finished up well after 5:30pm. That’s what long Italian lunches are all about!
Bookings for Aldo In Cucina Long Italian Lunches will open early 2019.