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The Appetizer: The Official Blog of DiningIn

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The Perfect Italian Family Dinner Night


Italian family dinner, The Sopranos

Family dinner night isn’t always easy to plan – that’s certainly a fact that can’t be disputed. Little Suzie might complain that there’s no dessert with the meal; young Stevie most likely doesn’t want to eat his broccoli; mom and dad might bicker over whether or not mashed potatoes are a legitimate serving of vegetables or whether or not there is any nutritional value to Sunny Delight.

To anyone who’s been forced to plan and/or take part in family dinner nights in the past, these disagreements are aplenty. If you mix those disagreements in with the fact that Italian food is – by far – of the most emotional cuisines you can indulge in, things can start to get really complicated really fast. This is why we want to help you (being restaurant and delivery experts) have the perfect Italian family dinner night, whether you’re looking to do all of the cooking and cleaning yourself or if you’re just looking to have us deliver you the food you crave from the Italian restaurants you love.

Appetizers: Always Try To Go Cold

The whole idea of eating appetizers is to indulge in them in order to stimulate your appetite for the main course. For this reason, despite how great Fried Calamari, Clams Casino and Stuffed Mushrooms are, it’s always better to go for cold appetizers than to go for warm ones. Cold appetizers increase your appetite more, while hot appetizers can bog you and your appetite down and – if they’re too hot – they can entirely slow your digestion process, which has the potential to make you pretty much physically useless after dinner.

One of my favorite cold appetizer options is Chilled Lobster with sides of fresh lemon and cocktail sauce. Of course, fresh lobster is something of a delicacy, and can be a little on the expensive side, but if you’re a seafood lover and it’s within your budget, it’s totally worth it. The only downside is that there’s a small chance that the Chilled Lobster dish might be the most delicious thing you eat during the entire meal (I don’t see anything wrong with that!). If lobster’s out of the question, here’s a cold, reliable, delicious recipe for a Heirloom Tomato & Mozzarella Salad from Maggiano’s Little Italy’s blog – The Chef’s Table.

Bruschetta, though served half hot, half cold, is also a solid appetizer option to kick off your family Italian dinner with a bang. If all else fails, serve a cold antipasto – garnished with pickled vegetables and fresh cold cuts – to kick off your Italian feast.

Rosebud, Italian family dinner, Chicago

Pictured above is a pasta dish from The Rosebud in Chicago.

Main Course: What’s An Italian Dish Without Pasta?

Call me biased, or pasta-obsessed, or a carb-nivore, I don’t care: an Italian meal is best served with fresh, al dente pasta or ziti. Of course, not all Italian dishes must by any means be prepared with pasta – i.e. pizza, ravioli or a grilled flatiron steak – but pasta is a great way to fuel up on carbohydrates to get the necessary energy for tomorrow’s challenges, and there’s nothing like fresh pasta topped off with fresher sauce.

Given your family doesn’t have any dietary restrictions (i.e. vegan, vegetarian, no red meat), there are plenty of options to choose for an Italian family dinner. The key is to pick a protein (a meat), a type of pasta, and a sauce – i.e. Chicken Parmesan, Veal Marsala, Spaghetti Aglio Olio, etc. Yes, Pasta and Meatballs are great, but the truth is you – as an Italian food lover and a consumer – can always do better than that. Check out our Italian restaurants in Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis and Philadelphia.

Dessert: The Best Way To (Or Not To?) Go Into A Food Coma

The idea of eating dessert at an Italian restaurant is so that you don’t walk out of there like a slug. This is why Tiramisu is such a popular dessert dish amongst Italian restaurants: it combines the sweetness of pastries and pies with the energy-inducing properties of espresso and after-dinner coffee. It’s like killing two birds with one stone.

One thing that’s hard to forget about dessert, though, is that it’s simply a meal to pique the interest of your taste buds, and perhaps give you a little bit of a sugar rush following your departure from the restaurant to give you a little more energy to drive home. Here’s a recipe for Tiramisu Italiano – but if you don’t have the time to make it, you can get it delivered from some of our best Italian restaurants in each and every one of our cities.