by Melinda Gallo

Party time!

This entire week I had been stressing out about our aperitivo (appetizer party). Every day I had something to do for it. I invited about 30 or so people and then had the fear that they would not all fit into our apartment. The weather has been rather cold in Florence, so standing out on the terrazza (terrace) wasn't an option. The only thing we had on the terrazza was Christmas lights, a stella di Natale (poinsettia) on the table and bottles of spumante (sparkling wine) to keep them cold.

On Friday, Simone and I went to a large Coop outside the city center to buy a few things. He offered to take me there so he could help me to select a few wines and the spumante to fare una bella figura (make a good impression). He suggested that I get some affettati (sliced ham and salami) and other goodies for our aperitivo from the Coop because it'd be cheaper than from the mercato (market).

Last weekend, I ended up asking Simone to make a few dishes for me because I was getting very stressed out about the aperitivo. He told me that he could make a Thai curry, rice, a salad with Japanese chicken and Thai meatballs, and a pappa al pomodoro (Tuscan tomato bread soup). I had thought of making the main dishes, but I prefer making desserts and I couldn't see how I was going to get everything ready for so many people. Besides, Simone also offered to bring me dishes, glasses, and silverware along with the piatti principali (main dishes).

I made three desserts on Saturday: caramels, tiramis¨, torta al cioccolato senza farina (flour-less chocolate cake) using Simone's recipe, and pumpkin bread.

On Sunday morning, I walked to the forno (bakery) near our old apartment to buy schiacciata (Italian flat bread) and pane Toscano (Tuscan bread) because I knew it was open on Sundays and I like their schiacciata a lot. On my way, I had to swing by the German mercato di Natale (Christmas market) to pick up horseradish for our shrimp cocktail too.

After a quick lunch back at home, Dave and I went out to purchase 20 champagne glasses at some 99 cent store near Standa although I did end up breaking two while I was washing them.

We set up our kitchen table and put out most of the food, while I finished off making a few dozen chouquettes (a cream puff cooked with coarse sugar sprinkled on top of them) in the oven.

Dave set up the wine bar on small table that we got this week at Ikea and prepared fresh margaritas in the refrigerator to serve. He made the sugar water Saturday night and juiced all the limes after we returned.

Simone arrived at 6PM to deliver the food. Dave helped him get everything out of his car and then ran to get ready. While Dave was in the shower, Simone helped me put out the affettati and olive (olives). He cut the pane (bread), and made sure everything was out. "╚ essagerato!" (It's exaggerated/over the top!), Simone said to me as we both looked at the table that just couldn't fit any more food on it. Luckily, I set up another table with just the desserts to which I added lace cookies this morning.

"Non Ŕ un aperitivo...Ŕ una cena," (It's not an appetizer party, it's a dinner) Simone said. We both burst out laughing as we looked at everything we had on the table. And still a few things weren't even on the table yet.

I was still cooking my last batch of chouquettes when the first guests arrived at 7:02PM! I was so shocked that people arrived on time. And not just two people, but six! I still hadn't changed and wasn't yet ready for the party; I was wearing jeans and still had my slippers on.

Simone helped me cook the prunes wrapped in pancetta (bacon) in a padella (frying pan), which ended up being a hit. I made at least 40 or 50 and they disappeared before the end of the night.

When he was done, Simone left us to go home and get ready while Dave served people drinks. I ran to change clothes, which I did in record time. I just picked out the first thing I could find in my closet and put it on. I didn't even have time to put on any make-up or fix my hair.

Every few minutes, people kept ringing the campanello (doorbell). I had to tell everyone "Siamo al terzo piano." (We're on the fourth (US) floor.) I was getting more worried as people kept showing up. They would mingle and hold drinks in their hands, but wouldn't eat.

Dave offered margaritas to everyone and anyone who wanted one, ended up having at least two. I had told Dave that no one will drink them because I figured everyone would drink the vino (wine) and spumante. Out of the six bottles of wine we bought, we only went through a half of one bottle of wine. But, I was happy that we ended up finishing about three bottles of spumante.

Everyone loved the Thai curry, even more than the pappa al pomodoro, which was also excellent.

Everyone enjoyed all the desserts I prepared, but everyone had their favorites. At the end of the evening, there was only a small portion left of the tiramis¨ and I didn't bring it out until there were only a few of us left.

I was especially happy that everyone got along so well; there were no awkward silences or times when people were sitting next to each other not talking. I have never invited all of my friends together, so I was a little worried to say the least. Since we've been in Florence, we haven't been able to invite people over to our place because we set up the dining room table as our office.

I was happy that even our proprietari (owners) of our apartment accepted our invitation. It was wonderful to spend some time with them. All of my friends commented on how nice they are and how lucky we both are to have them as the proprietari. Everyone we invited lives in Florence, but half of us are expatriates while the other half are Florentines or Italians. I was very pleased to see a lot of my friends exchange phone numbers. It's always nice when people meet other people that they'd like to see more of.

I was so busy trying to talk to everyone and make sure everything was going smoothly that I forgot to take any pictures. Luckily, we had avanzi (leftovers) because we didn't get to eat much food either.

We were so happy with how our aperitivo turned out, and now we're planning on possibly doing another one soon. Maybe even before the end of the year. Unfortunately, we won't be able to eat out on the terrazza yet, but it's very pleasant to go out and take a peek once in a while.

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