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Digital Subscriptions > Italia! > May 2019 > A TASTE OF ITALY Celebrations

A TASTE OF ITALY Celebrations

Celebrations in Italy usually involve sharing a feast with family and friends, and here Mario Matassa has put together a menu to suit any special occasion

There are no hard and fast rules for a celebration menu, though a few rough generalisations can be made

In Italy it would be unthinkable to have a celebration without food. Whether it’s a baptism, birthday party, graduation, wedding or anniversary, Christmas, New Year, Easter, a Saint’s Day, even a simple Sunday lunch, whatever the occasion, public or private, it will always entail a meal specially prepared to fit the occasion. Put simply, when Italians celebrate, they celebrate with food.

The celebrations can range from lavish private banquets to informal parties that are open to everyone, and the menu will depend on the event, the season, and the region. In Italy, it’s probably safe to say that there is a dish specifically designed to celebrate every occasion, just as there is a festival designed to celebrate every dish. And it does not end with dishes. Italians also honour ingredients through the countless summer sagre, or food festivals. In my home province alone, between June and early September sagre will be held to celebrate everything from garlic to cherries, frogs to ducks, polenta flour to potatoes, and mushrooms to chestnuts. Take into consideration the various dishes that merit food festivals over the same period – pasta and beans, polenta and cheese, tripe and onions, plus many others – and you begin to wonder how Italians find time to do anything but celebrate over the summer!

Because of regional variations, there are no hard and fast rules for a celebration menu, though a few rough generalisations can be made. To begin with, there are basic minimum guidelines. When it comes to a wedding, for example, anything less than eight courses is just not respectable. Even a standard christening, baptism or Holy Communion has a five-course starting point.

There is also a pattern as to when and how Italians celebrate. For example, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Easter Sunday are family celebrations. New Year’s Eve, Easter Monday and Ferragosto are when Italians book a table and venture out. If you are in Italy during any of these times, for a really good party make your way to the nearest trattoria and order the menu fisso (fixed menu). Italy is a nation that celebrates food as much as it celebrates with food.

Special occasions aside, even the casual observer can’t help but notice that food holds a special place in Italian culture. The reverence and joy with which Italians sit down to a simple bowl of pasta, for example, belies the fact that most Italians eat pasta every day of the week. To get a sense of what I’m talking about, experience the buzz the next time you visit a local trattoria. Don’t bother looking at the menu, just ask the waiter to bring you whatever the locals are having. Then all you have to do is sit back, watch, and enjoy the gusto and spirit with which Italians celebrate life and celebrate food.

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About Italia!

This month’s Italian journey begins in the crystal blue waters of the Maddalena Archipelago, just off the northeastern tip of Sardinia. Check out the quieter coves of the Costa Smeralda (no bling required) and travel inland to explore an ancient landscape, with copious helpings of delicious Sardinian food to sustain you along the way. Beth, our newest writer, revisits her beloved Rome, this time with a baby and grandparents in tow. Perugina, the producers of theiconic Baci, are under the spotlight as we trace the history of this venerable chocolate company, and we meet up with Giorgio Locatelli in our exclusive interview.