There is an art to setting the table. Different cultures have different ways of doing it. The Japanese, for instance, might have you sit on cushions on the floor. Americans put forks and spoons on the left and knives on the right, and our drinking glasses are way bigger than others. Everyone wants to make a statement with his table when hosting a dinner party at home. But Italians simply do it better.
Entertaining is as natural to southern Italians as breathing. Their lives revolve around food and family, and their homes, much like their hearts, are always open. Recently, my cousin Fausto set a table for his parents, our Australian cousin Vanessa, and me, at his family’s home in Ischia, Italy, the island where I’m staying for the next month or so. (For photos, visit “Fausto’s Tablescape” photo album.) Here are some tips I picked up by observing Fausto’s tablescape –
1. Make the most of nature. Fausto used pink flowers from his parent’s garden to spruce up the table, which was set outdoors on a patio. He used these flowers to surround two candles on either end of the oblong table. He also wrapped coral tea roses, also from the garden, in large green leaves and left one at the seat of each of the women in attendance.
2. Keep things simple for a casual night with family. Rather than pull out expensive, fancy china and silverware, Fausto used his mom’s everyday dishes and glasses and paper napkins.
3. Food is as much apart of the tablescape as anything else. Fausto and his parents were sure to beautifully plate our various courses. For instance he put a chunk of grilled bread smothered in calamari with red sauce on the center of one plate and sprinkled chopped fresh parsley on top. The food (as you’ll see in the photo album) looked like another piece of art on the table. It also happened to be delicious, a bonus.
4. Your guests are the most important part of the dinner party. Fausto and family were entertaining, too. They always are gracious, and keep the conversation moving. Of course, they like to have fun. Fausto put additional flowers in our hair — and his own — so we could take funny pictures to send to our relatives around the world (in the United States, France, and Australia).