Ever since Aron and I first went on a date to Foreign Cinema in San Francisco (over 15 years ago), and ate dinner while La Dolce Vita was screened on the giant white-washed wall in its courtyard, I’ve been wanting to set up a similar scenario at home. When Bertolli reached out to see if we’d like to try their skillet meals, it sounded like the perfect time to give it a go.
To make a fairly spontaneous (mid-week) dinner party—my favorite sort—work, I need the food to be uncomplicated. I was able to pick up everything here at the grocery store in the morning with the kids, and borrow the projector from Aron’s parents in the afternoon. It turned out perfectly and I can’t wait to do it again.
We set out some bitter Italian apertivo and a salumi platter to get started. Think Campari, Aperol, and various amari. When we were in Italy, I would order a spritz whenever possible: mix equal parts of a bitter (Aperol is a bit milder than Campari and a good place to start) with sparkling wine and soda water.
For the salumi, you can ask more grocery store deli counters to shave some prosciutto and salami for you fresh or reach for some of the pre-packaged options. I also really like Salami Secci (dried salami), which you can leave out with a sharp knife. Anything that doesn’t get finished will still last a long while. I don’t think you have to do any fussing over this; just arrange with enough space that the meat doesn’t stick too much.
We decided to go with three of the Bertolli Skillet Meals—they took under 10 minutes to make, with even less hands-on time—and just set them on potholders directly on the table for passing: Shrimp Scampi Linguine, Chicken Florentine & Farfalle, and Italian Sausage & Rigatoni. We’ve had the latter again since and it’s so good with a little shaved parmesan. It has a slight kick, so the kids like it with ricotta.
A simple arugula salad with olive oil, lemon, and salt, made for an easy side.
I also set out olives and some fresh ricotta, topped with a generous pour of olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme (a combination I learned to love at Locanda Verde in New York)—and of course some bottles of wine.
Dessert was equally hassle-free: affogato all around: hot, bitter espresso poured over gelato to make a little pool of deliciousness. Tip: Pre-chill your cups so that melting takes longer. And while the word affogato means “drowned” in Italian, you want to ice cream or gelato to still stand out: think roughly 1 ounce of espresso for every scoop.
We opted to screen Roman Holiday—an American classic, true, but set in Rome—so we’d feel free to talk over it. I had to laugh when it started and Aron said “She’s really pretty. Who is she?”
(If you’re interested in doing the same, you’ll need a basic home projector; a blank wall or canvas; an audio cable and speaker; and a movie, downloaded or ready to stream, on your phone or computer. Be sure that you have the cable or adapter needed for your connection to the projector.)
With dinner on the table so easily, one’s left to enjoy company—and maybe a movie. Bunny-ears and shadow puppets optional.
This post is brought to you by Bertolli. Don’t just eat, Mangia!