One of our favourite Italian traditions is the Italian Sunday lunch. As a true Brit I can hand on heart say it rivals the Sunday roast, not just the food but because of the other traditions…
Here are the 10 rules for an authentic Italian Sunday lunch
Our Sicilian family!
1) You must invite ALL the family! Contrary to popular believes Italians do not have loads of children. Most Italians I know only have 1 or 2 children, but they keep their family close to them so aunts, uncles and particularly grandparents ‘nonni’ are regular guests for lunch or dinner and particularly Sunday lunches so invite all the family and if there is no grandparent – adopt one.
2) A large table! Obviously for the 20+ guests you will need a large table, ok maybe not large but long definitely!
3) A table cloth is a must. It is unthinkable for Italians not to have a tablecloth. Preferably white but as these are modern times you can go patterned but it MUST be cloth never paper!
4) Unlike the table cloth you can use plastic plates and cups, especially if there are loads of you. Unfortunately, this is very popular in Italy and goes against every recycling rule we have been taught.
5) Enough wine to sink a battle ship and a matching amount of water. Sparkling as well but it must be bottled. As for the wine. Local wine is fine and if it’s a 5 litre bottle – all the better
My Molise friends and guests completely going against my list of ‘donts’!
6) A television. Yes I know it sounds strange but at almost every Italian Sunday lunch I have ever attended the television has played a huge role. In Italy every Sunday they have marathon Italian television shows that run for at least 3 hours followed by 15 football programmes. If the television can be placed high up so everyone can see that would be perfect. You often find them on top of the fridge.
7) The meal should comprise of at least 4 courses, preferably 5 or 6 and if you are at an Italian wedding expect any number over 11…
For Sunday lunch you should have;
Aperetivi ; Prosecco or similar is only ever served before a meal. NEVER with a meal.
Antipasti; cold meat, cheeses, olives etc
First course; pasta or rice dish
Meat with a small side selection of greens and maybe potatoes.
Fruit and cheese; Always seasonal. Italians don’t care how fruit looks – it’s all about the taste. Nuts can also be served.
Sweet course. This is where you the guest come in. You bring the cakes – usually bought from a local cake shop. Do NOT bring wine, unless it is a sweet wine to go with the desert!
Finally – A coffee. Well an espresso. Do NOT ask for a cappuccino. You will be thrown out for asking for milk.
And lastly a liquor to help you ‘digest’ the huge amount you have eaten. Italians are obsessed by digestion! Before living there I had only thought about it in terms of biscuits!
Lovely Bread should be served throughout. Do not make my mistake and fill up on that first!
Eating at a friend’s house where everything we ate was locally sourced! If you look carefully you can see the television in the background!
8) The meal usually starts at 2pm and finishes about 6pm! Obviously this depends on how many courses there are. Word to the wise. Don’t have breakfast first!
9) How to be a polite guest. This is VERY important. On your first mouthful of food comment on how wonderful the food is! You cannot go on about it enough! If you really want to impress, ask for a second helping! Even though you have eaten the equivalent of a week’s food.
10) Some DONT’S!
Don’t bring English food. Italians don’t trust it.
Don’t ask for butter for your bread. Butter in Italy is used to cook with only.
Don’t ask for seasoning! The cook will have seasoned it according to the recipe. You risk offending them by asking for salt!
And – Don’t get drunk. This is what’s is known as a ‘Brutta figura’ (Making a fool of yourself!) Get merry enough to need a sleep but not drunk enough to dance on the table. It never stopped me though…
You can of course recreate this in England but to be honest the best way to experience it is to get yourself over to Italy and find a good local family run restaurant and book yourself in for Sunday lunch.
And lastly the ONLY way to greet someone on a Sunday is by saying “Buona Domenica ” loudly and often!
So Buona Domenica!!