Our annual Italian Dinner Party each February is my weekend to shine and make my husband both happy and proud – happy that he’s getting a good home cooked meal; and proud that I try my hardest to replicate two of his favorite childhood dishes that his Italian grandma made for him.

I suppose I’m a pretty good cook. What I don’t serve up in quality, I make up for in quantity. I once overheard a guest tell another guest that when they come to Debbie’s house for any type event, they won’t leave hungry. Having grown up in the south, I took that as the ultimate compliment.

Whittling our guest list down to seven couples was the hardest part of the entire shindig. Bill and I put great care in deciding which personalities would fit together, and this year we hit the nail on the head. The conversation flowed as freely as the wine, and everyone had a wonderful time!

Whenever I’m planning a big dinner party, I throw all caution to the wind. I’m going to serve my guests authentic food, and I’m not going to cut corners or flavors trying to make it low carb or low fat. I will, however; always serve a huge salad to counter the calorie laden deliciousness.

I’m not the least bit ashamed to say that when a guest asks what they can bring, I start giving them assignments (usually appetizers or desserts). As a guest, I enjoy contributing to the meal, so I allow that same pleasure to my guests.

When entertaining a large number of guests, it’s all about planning. Bill and I make our guest list and menu at least a month out, and try to send out our invitations via Evite at the same time. For some events, I even send out “save the date” emails as soon as I have my guest list complete.

I make the grocery list early in the week, and shop for the recipe ingredients at Wegman’s (always Wegman’s for any sort of specialty meal) a day or two before the event. Bill is in charge of the wine, although we almost always have a current favorite dinner wine that I stock up on at Costco. Our current favorite is Chateau Ste Michelle Indian Wells Merlot at $13.89 per bottle, a very reasonable price for a great tasting wine.

In an ideal world I will do some of the prep the day before the dinner, but life often gets in the way and my best laid plans fly out the window. Having my schedule laid out hour-by-hour the day of the dinner is imperative to a stress free day.

Having a good sous-chef  is very critical, and Bill fills that position nicely. He ran some last minute errands for me on Saturday morning, and then spent the rest of the day washing dishes almost as quickly as I dirtied them. At the end of a long day of cooking, it’s nice not to have a kitchen full of dirty dishes to wash before the guests arrive.

With assembly complete, and both main dishes in the oven, I started putting together the salad just as the guests started arriving. Our dinner menu included:

  • Assorted Wines (our favorite and guest contributions)
  • Assorted Appetizers (guest contributions)
  • Tossed Salad
  • Beef Braciola
  • Chicken Parmigiana
  • Mezza Penne Pasta
  • Italian Bread (guest contribution)
  • Tiramisu (guest contribution)
  • Assorted Cheesecake Shooters (guest contribution)
  • Limoncello and Bailey’s Irish Cream


We set up the food on the kitchen island, and let our guests serve themselves, then choose where to sit – either at the kitchen or dining room table, both set up with matching color coordinated tablecloths and napkins.

Throwing a dinner party is a lot of work, but so very worth it. There’s nothing like seeing your dear friends enjoy themselves; and let’s face it, who doesn’t like hearing that your beef braciola is “absolutely melt-in-your-mouth delicious!”


  • Questions:
  • What’s your favorite type of food?
  • What food is your specialty for preparing and serving to guests?
  • When you’re invited to a big dinner party, do you try to workout extra hard earlier that day?