a while back, i sort of started a dinner series. it was based on the premise that i wanted to bring people together over the one thing everyone has in common: food. i wanted a mix of new and old friends, i wanted friends to bring their friends, i wanted to make people happy and share with them food that i love. i hosted one installment back in march, which went really well, and then i was finding it difficult to find other people who wanted to attend, so i put it on hiatus.
now that i’m back from vacation, our roof finally is in order for entertaining, and i’m more inspired than ever, i wanted to reinstate it. this past saturday i had 4 girlfriends over for the second ever instalment of mangia and it was beautiful. there is truly nothing i love more than cooking for people. hearing people laugh around a table, seeing their reactions when they take the first bite, making sure they’re full and happy and relaxed. i want my rooftop to be like a little italian restaurant, filled with the laughter, wine and warmth that we experience while we were there.
the menu i created was a reflection of so many things of our trip. i started with an aperol spritz and warm marinated olives as the aperitivo. one of my favourite things about italy is the tradition of having a cocktail and a snack a little bit before your meal. something to help you relax and unwind after a long day. we drank countless aperol spritz in italy and are now totally obsessed. antipasto was a fresh salad of sweet, ripe cantaloupe (melone), salty prosciutto, peppery arugula and a drizzle of balsamic – this was a tribute to the amazing arugula salads i ate throughout my trip – arugula tastes different in italy, it’s a different shape and sharper, more peppery, and more delicious. next course was primo: orecchiette with peas in a mint, basil and pistachio pesto. i love that pasta is traditionally a starter course in italy – just a few delicious bites – italians know how to pace themselves. i finished the pasta with homemade hot chilli oil and a squeeze of lemon to brighten it up.
secondi, main course, in italy is traditionally where the meat and contorni (side dishes) are served. because we ate so much fresh seafood while we were on the coast, i decided to grill a whole branzino stuffed with lemon and fennel. it turned out beautifully, with crispy, deeply brown skin topped with toasted fennel seed oil, and moist, lemon scented meat. grilled fennel and cannellini bean salad with parsley and tomatoes were served on the side.
while we were on the coast, especially capri and amalfi, lemons were EVERYWHERE. painted on ceramics, little bottles of limoncello, giant lemons in bowls of hotel lobbies as fragrant decoration, cute fruit stands on the sides of winding roads – so i tried to keep hints of lemon throughout the menu. keeping with that theme, for dessert i made a lemon tart with shortbread crust, olive oil curd, and finished with pink himalayan salt.
unfortunately i didn’t get photos of the entire meal, because the sun set sooner than i thought, but that was quite alright because the lights and candles gave off an amazing glow and just made the vibe so italia!