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  • Host a Pizza-Themed Kid's Birthday Party
    Find out how to create a one-of-a-kind festa for your little one that pays homage to your heritage
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    When my husband and I decided we would spend nine months in Italy, we realized that we'd be celebrating our son's second birthday there. I immediately went into planning mode, and location was key. We would be living on the island of Ischia, which is a province of Naples, Italy, the birthplace of pizza.

    I did some research of kids' parties online (there are more themes and ideas than you can imagine). Then, I started devising my own plan. On Sept. 26, we surprised the Italian family with an all-American Italian-themed birthday party. It was like nothing they had ever seen before. I did everything myself, so I am sure anyone can pull this off. By the way, this could even be fun for adults. In fact, my son was the only kid (besides his teenage cousins) at his party. And everyone had a blast.

    Here's what I did:

    Start with the menu.
    We're Italian, so the food matters. We can't just focus on the desserts either. People will talk – and not in the good way – if you don't feed them and feed them well. Obviously, the pizza theme gave us a great base. We ordered pizzas from a local restaurant in Ischia. In Italy, the pizzas are all sized for the individual, so we ordered 20 for our 20 guests.

    But we chose a variety of pizzas that included the traditional Margherita (tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil), sausage and broccoli rabe, German sausages and French fries (yes, on a pizza in Italy), and four-cheese. Then, we cut them all up and everyone got a taste of each. If I had done this in the United States, I might have made pizza dough and let guests make their own pies, or I might have just made pizza from scratch for the dinner. In pizza's birthplace, though, there was no point to doing that.

    To accompany the pizza, I made four salads – an Italian potato salad (found on catchmyparty.com), a garden salad, a Ceasar salad, and arugula and parmigiano with olive oil and lemon. I also made some homemade rosemary focaccia (courtesy of Ree Drummond). I used her recipe for dough and made two other focaccia bread with oregano, basil, olive oil, and parmigiano.

    Dessert was special. I made confetti cupcakes (thanks to Baking Bites) with homemade vanilla and chocolate icing. It was all about the presentation though. I stacked them on a cupcake stand that looked like a typical pizzeria chef standing on a pizza pie with another pie in his hand (which I bought from Oriental Trading). And each cupcake was topped with a photo of my son that we doctored (using the free features on picmonkey.com) to have him, replete with pizza chef mustache and wearing a chef's hat with his company name on it (Enzo's Pizza).

    In addition, I made three types of fruit pizza. The bases were homemade sugar cookies (my mom's favorite recipe, torn from a very old magazine). Then, I topped one with Nutella and bananas, another with cream cheese icing and strawberries and blueberries, and the last with cream cheese icing, apples, homemade honey roasted peanuts, and homemade caramel sauce. That last one was a lot of work but totally worth it.

    Decorate and entertain.
    We turned my mother-in-law's kitchen into Enzo's pizzeria. I made a sign using a roll of plain, brown paper. I just created the Italian flag and then personalized cutouts of a pizza chef, menu, and pizza shoppe sign that I purchased from Oriental Trading. I covered all the tables in the joint in red plastic table covers that I bought at the dollar store in the States. And each place setting featured pizza paper plates and napkins, also from Oriental Trading. One of the great finds for this party was the place mat. Each guest had an activity sheet placemat like you would find at a restaurant for kids. It was Italy-themed, and I tracked them down from a home schooling Web site. I also placed a small package of crayons, from the dollar store, for each person.

    Everyone at the party had a chance to be a pizza chef. I printed out mustaches, used a hole punch to make a hole, and then put them on straws that sat in every plastic cup on the table. I also made chef's hats, out of tissue paper and cardstock, for every guest at the party. At their seats, guests also found a mini pizza box (that I printed for free from Karen's Cookies and then put together myself) with a sugar cookie I made and decorated to look like a pizza with red “sauce” and white “cheese” that was really icing. I also melted down American Reese's chocolate and milk chocolate to make mustache lollipops.

    Finally, I purchased a photo booth kit from Wal-Mart that featured the mustache and some other props and a background poster with polka dots that we hung on the wall, so my teenage nieces and their friend could snap some fun pics. It's the perfect entertainment for the Facebook generation in America or Italy. They also used their hats and the other details of the party to take some fun photos.

    Be sure to have a showstopper.
    Honestly, every detail was a showstopper in my opinion (and I know I'm totally bias). But my son was the star of his big day. He wore a chef's outfit, replete with child-sized cooking utensils, that was his birthday gift from my husband and me and which we found by Melissa & Doug on Amazon.com. And our baby smiled broadly as everyone sang, “Tanti auguri,” which is the Italian birthday song. Of course, he insisted on blowing out the candles, admittedly sometimes with spit, 100 times. It was unforgettable and the perfect party for Italians like us. You can see more photos of the event at www.francescadimeglio.com.

    Di Meglio is the author of Fun with the Family New Jersey (Globe Pequot Press Travel, 2012) and you can follow her life and work at the Two Worlds Web site.


    Article Published 10/7/13

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