There's no doubt that Italian food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. Italy is blessed with a climate that allows the production of fresh ingredients of the best quality – from olive oils to wines to cheeses – and with an outstanding regional variety that ensures that there really is something for every taste. Our legendary passion is especially channeled into the way we cook, eat and talk about food. In no other country is food so much a part of everyday life as it is in Italy. Eating in Italy is a serious business, we definitely have strict food rules, especially when it comes to wedding food.
Ask any Italian who has just attended a wedding what was the most special thing of the event… very likely the answer will be something like “The food was amazing!”, “What a rich buffet there was!”, or “The cake was delicious”. Admit it—you chose Italy as your wedding destination also because you love Italian food, which is also the reason why you’ve probably visited the country a dozen times and can’t stay away for too long.
We created this guide to help you plan the best wedding menu for your unforgettable wedding in Italy, with tips and suggestions from our expert wedding planners. Here are the most important things you need to know about Italian wedding menus.
In Italy’s local gastronomy and culinary culture, regional differences are vibrantly alive. Italian dishes vary widely depending on the region, and these differences are of course reflected in wedding menus.
A general rule is that by the coast the prime ingredient is fish and seafood, while in the hinterland regions and areas meat-based recipes and specialties are the best. It may seem like a generalization, but this is the number one rule to stick to when planning the perfect Italian wedding menu.
The finest local caterers will only propose what is regional and in season, celebrating traditional recipes and the produce of the land they operate in. Thus, Tuscany for example is renowned for its mushrooms, truffles, wild boar, excellent steak, delicious olive oil. The Campania region, where the legendary Amalfi Coast is located, is famous for its exquisite seafood, tomatoes, mozzarella, lemons and fresh Summer vegetables, especially eggplant and zucchini. Sunny Apulia is the land of fresh homemade pasta with durum wheat, amazing focaccias and calzoni, burrata cheese and delicious fish recipes.
The list is long, especially if we include the hundreds of unique recipes that each region of Italy proudly boasts. It’s not only a matter of local ingredients but also of traditional cooking methods which vary greatly from one place to the other. Make sure that you pay tribute to Italy’s rich food scene by selecting some of the specialties of the destination you choose for your wedding in Italy. Wherever you choose to tie the knot in Italy, the food will not disappoint!
At Italian weddings, the aperitif marks the start of the exceptional food experience that every wedding celebration is. Similar to a “cocktail hour”, it’s normally a standing affair, guests will arrive here after the ceremony and enjoy a wide variety of Italian appetizers, both hot and cold, served on trays by waiters passing around.
Planning for a selected number of food stations with local specialties is a great idea, to give even more variety in terms of food and of experience, as guests are attracted to the special food stall and will be very engaged to taste different delicious types of food. From “Mozzarella bars” – with different kinds of fresh cheeses including Apulian burrata, Bufala mozzarella, Fiordilatte cheese, a variety of different tomatoes, breads and focaccias – to typical cured meats, from a raw fish corner with tartare and carpaccio to a scampi and oyster bar, we will make it special and very Italian!
The aperitivo is best paired with a Prosecco to drink or light cocktails such as the famous Aperol Spritz, Campari spritz, Hugo or Bellini.
At this point, you and your guests will relocate to the reception area, where three to four courses are normally served. First comes the antipasto, which is normally the lightest course and could be a salad, beef or fish tartare, a special bruschetta.
Then comes an amazing primo, which is a pasta dish. There is a lot to choose from, according to your taste, as the variety of styles, textures, shapes, and sauces is wide: a wonderful risotto, fresh pasta, ravioli or other filled pasta, gnocchi or soup… there are endless options, with fish, meat or vegetarian.
The secondo offers the main dish and is traditionally either fish or meat (beef, veal, lamb, or pork) and is paired with a contorno, side dish.
To crown your unforgettable wedding meal, dolci will be served. You can either decide to serve a portion at the table of one of the many delicious famous Italian desserts, such as Tiramisù or Panna Cotta, or you can plan a wonderful Sweet buffet with small portions of different specialties, including cannoli, babà, chocolate or fruit tarts, and much more! For a treat in the heat, there is nothing better than Italian ice cream, you could plan a gelato cart.
What follows dessert in Italia? A cup (or shall we say “shot”) of coffee of course, an espresso or macchiato with some milk or cream. Ending with “un caffè” is a must for your wedding reception in Italy!
We can get creative with desserts and offer them in a variety of styles or not offer them at all, but something you must have is a wonderful cake cutting moment. If you want a truly Italian experience, go for a Millefoglie wedding cake, which traditionally is a single-tier cake made of pastry layers filled with Chantilly cream, chocolate drops or almond brittle and fresh strawberries or berries on top. Of course, it is also possible to request a multi-tiered cake, in the American style, which is undoubtedly more photogenic.
Last but not least, the famous Italian confettata, a dessert table where confetti are served to all guests. In their classic version, confetti are white sugar coated almonds, symbolizing the bitter and sweet that life may bring, or as a wish of happiness and prosperity for the new family.
Today there are many varieties of confetti, available in different shapes, colors and tastes. From classic dark chocolate and white chocolate to creamy flavors such as coffee, pistachio, vanilla, coconut, or fresh flavors like limoncello, peach, melon, and many more.
These traditional dragées are a must-have for your Italian wedding reception: it is impossible for Italian guests to leave the wedding banquet without filling their pockets with confetti!
Now that you are familiar with the typical Italian Wedding Menu format, there are some things you should know to create the best wedding menu for your event:
Italy is one of the best producers of wine in the world and any region of Italy is famous for some of the finest wines available on the market. It’s not difficult to understand why we love to serve wine at wedding receptions. Typically, during the seated dinner, only wines are served. An open bar throughout the event is something that most foreign guests are accustomed to, but it is not the rule in Italy. We, Italians, expect to drink bubbles during the cocktail hour, be it famous Prosecco from Veneto or Franciacorta from Lombardy or Trento, the latter being produced with the same method as champagne. Then red or white wines during dinner, which is then ended with a digestivo such as limoncello or a herbal amaro (bitter), only after enjoying a passito wine with desserts. Cocktails, shots and other hard liquor is left for the last portion of the celebration, the dancing party!
The art of food and wine pairing is very important when creating a perfect Italian wedding menu. Every region and area of Italy boasts exceptional wines and native varieties which happen to be the perfect match for the traditional dishes of that region. Just imagine tasting a fabulous t-bone Chianina steak paired with a glass of Chianti or an exceptional seabass fillet with a glass of Fiano watching a spectacular Amalfi Coast sunset.
Is there a better way to start your wedding celebration than with a wonderful rehearsal dinner, stepping into the heart of local tradition?
The rehearsal dinner is a great occasion to set the tone, break the ice, and serve authentic Italian food! You don’t want to steal the thunder to the main event, that’s why the way food is served and presented, and the actual specialties offered should be different.
Our favorite welcome events are Italian-themed rehearsal dinners, they are fun, relaxed and pay tribute to Italy’s traditions. Here are the ingredients to organize the ultimate Italian rehearsal dinner: a typical local restaurant or trattoria, mouthwatering food and wine, family-style serving, very colorful presentation and decors. We can incorporate some of Italy’s most authentic traditions such as mozzarella or pizza making in front of your guests: not only will your guests taste bites of freshly made mozzarella and slices of pizza, they will also remember the show forever!
Make sure that the best homemade recipes of Italian culinary tradition are served, such as parmigiana di melanzane (eggplant parm), insalata caprese, tagliatelle al ragù (with “Bolognese” sauce), penne alla Puttanesca, tortellini… are you hungry yet?
We are sure that your guests will say a heartfelt GRAZIE to you, as you gift them with the chance to eat many delicious and authentic Italian specialties!
Some photos copyright of Aman Venice© Belmond Italia Spa© Betsi Ewing©
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