The 7-course Italian Dinner

 Each year, my mom does an ethnic Christmas dinner complete with researched dishes and a spreadsheet of job assignments for everyone but the little ones and my dad. For the first time in years, my siblings all came home for Christmas so it was wonderful to have the house overflowing with people. But back to the food. Let me just say this is the FINAL time we'll be doing this to this scale. In the midst of it all I felt like we were actually living in the movie Big Night. If you've never seen Big Night with Tony Shalhoub of Monk, it's a foodie movie must-see.

The 7 courses turned into 6 mostly out of a necessity to live to eat another day. 
Course 1: antipasti (1:00 p.m.)

The research:
Antipasti is an Italian word meaning literally "before the meal." The antipasti is the appetizer or hors d'oeuvre course. Antipasti is the plural form of the word, but the singular form, antipasto, is often also used.
Our offering: 

  • mozzarella-prosciutto-basil logs
  • mozzarella-salami logs
  • salami
  • assorted cheeses
  • assorted olives
  • artichoke hearts
  • tomato and mozzarella with sea salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar (insalata caprese)
  • crusty bread with garlic-balsamic vinegar and olive oil for dipping
  • ceviche with fresh caught mahimahi
  • shiraz
Course 2: insalata (2:15 p.m.)
We waited about a half an hour and that gave the cooks enough time to put the salads together. Salads are also served at an antipasti course, but we played Christmas bingo between courses instead.
Our offering:
  • Caesar salad with anchovies on the side (Ken's homemade Caesar salad dressing)
  • pasta salad
  • marinated vegetables (cauliflower, carrots, smoked green olives)
  • chardonay
Course 3: soup (3:30 p.m.)
At this point, lethargy is setting in and the day is getting hot. The older kids have disappeared to the park so Ahi can do some stunting, the little ones are outside picking tangerines and our youngest is downstairs in the "man cave/tattoo studio" playing "Modern Warfare."

Our offering:
  • cioppino
  • minestrone
  • shiraz left from a former course and chardonay
The research:
Cioppino is a fish stew  developed by Italian fisherman in the 1800s.  It's a stew, so any kind of seafood will do and everything is in a tomato and wine flavored broth.  Like cioppino, minestrone is not a fussy soup because cooks just use whatever vegetables are in season.

Course 4: Pasta (5:30 p.m.)
There was a bit of a mix-up on what came when so the fire was started for the salmon and the orzo was finished before the pasta course came out. At this point, everyone is beyond full and seriously making sure that they have enough room for what's coming up. The clearing tables, putting food away and setting up for the next course is taking longer than the actual eating.
The offering:
  • Spaghetti with mushroom marinara
  • Spaghetti with simple clam sauce
  • merlot, second chardonay
Course 5: Entree (6:30 p.m.)
The offering:
  • Grilled salmon seasoned with olive oil, lemon, Rocking H salt
  • Pork loin with roasted potatoes, onions and mushrooms
  • Mango chutney for the pork
  • Orzo with parmesan
  • Grilled marinated vegetables (asparagus, colored peppers, zucchini)

Course 6: (not served): fruit and cheese platter
Course 7: dessert and coffee 
We were actually going to make cannolis but there were no cannoli tubes in Hilo. True story. It seems we only want to make cannolis around Christmas and our local restaurant supply store is always out of cannoli tubes. They must order one after our inquiry, then sell it before the year is up so when we call again, they are once again out of it.

The offerings:
  • Panatone (Italian fruit cake)
  • Christmas themed white cake
  • Lime layered jello
  • Ken's dark chocolate sea salt fudge
  • Ken's cream cheese pie with blueberry or cherry topping


  1. Good job of recording THE MEAL with the photos. Where's our food stylist? The salmon was far more tasty than it is portrayed!! Mahalo everyone.

  2. OHMYGOSH. You guys are CRAZY! But now I don't have to plan/research, I have it ALL RIGHT HERE! In Italy I remember being SO FULL by the time the pasta dish came long (and way before the entree). Great post, Cat!

  3. I have been looking up Italian 7 course menus for a progressive dinner and this is great! The photos are awesome too. --One thing I did notice that you might want to edit... there are two "course six" and no course five.-- I could figure it out, thks for having this all in one place!

  4. Excellent summary of a full Italian dinner - I switched out pork for roast beef and added Italian potatoes to the Secondo course and chose a Merlot to accompany it. It is certainly an all day event!!


  5. Your first mistake was serving chardonnay after shiraz, that doesn't make any sense. Also the entree should be your second course, then salad, certainly not the sixth.

  6. Oh. me. girsh. If I still lived in Hilo I know we would be bestest friends! I lived in Italy for a couple of years and have done the full on course meals about 10 years ago and am going to do it again tomorrow. So by happenstance I came across yo' rubbaslippah blog and I love it.
    Great ideas!

  7. So, what is the non-flavored ice-milk or shorbert that is served to clean the palet before the next course. Inter-something. I have forgotten.

    1. How about a sorbet shot:
      .75 fl. oz. Grappa
      .75 fl. oz. Limoncello
      1 sprig Rosemary

      Shake and fine strain into a shot glass.


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