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  • An Italian Party for the Irish
    While everyone else is making corned beef and cabbage for St. Patty's Day, you can host your very own Italian fest
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    St. Patrick's Day always puts me in the mood for a party. Maybe it's the emerald green color splashed across everything or the thought of leprechauns and good fortune at the end of the rainbow. It's actually more likely that I am nostalgic for my college days, when I hung out with a bunch of Irish kids, and I would join them at pubs in Philadelphia to celebrate their day. I shouldn't dream of those good ole days because I would end up driving the others home because I didn't drink alcohol, and I would nurse them through their hangovers on the 18th. Still, there's something special about those carefree days, the singing, the dancing, the fun.

    Nowadays, my St. Patrick's Day festivities have become far more low-key. I have a one-year-old son, which makes pub crawling extinct. Although, often, there is still vomiting, a result of drinking too much…latte. But I always have an itch to entertain during this time of year. Since I'm an Italian American who spends a lot of time in the Homeland, I make my get togethers more red, white, and green than green, white, and orange, if you know what I mean. So, here are some ways to have a rockin' Italian party in honor of St. Patrick's Day:

    Get people ready to eat.
    Italians like their alcohol. In fact, most of them seem to have been born with a glass of wine in their hands. But they love their food. If you want to make like the Italians, then you should actually gear yourself up for eating. In Italy, young people will go for apperitivi. These are alcoholic beverages that are usually bitter in taste. Examples are cocktails made with Aperol or Campari. In fact, you might serve Aperol with Sprite or Campari with seltzer water and a splash of orange juice. At bars in Italy, they'll give you these drinks with finger foods, like bite-sized pizza or light antipasto. A cup of potato chips, popcorn, or peanuts will also grace the table. The point of these drinks and cocktails is to increase your appetite and get you set for the real eating when you go home.

    Put out a great spread.
    Even if you start with apperitivi, you'll need to come up with at least one main course – if not a primo piatto (such as soup, pasta, or rice) and a secondo piatto (such as chicken or other meat dish). Baked ziti is a good choice for a big crowd because it's filling and easy to make. But if you want to make something comparable to corned beef or brisket and will satisfy an Italian palette, you might consider a beef stew with an Italian flair or steak pizzaiola.

    Serve beer.
    Of course, an Italian party of this nature usually calls for wine, and you can make that available to your guests. But you could pay homage to St. Patrick's Day by serving beer. Instead of the usual Budweiser or Guinness, why not serve Peroni or Birra Moretti? This way, you're sticking to your Italian menu and theme but still pointing to the March holiday everyone else is celebrating.

    Sing out loud.
    Every pub on St. Patrick's Day features some sort of singing and dancing by patrons. Often, they break out into song, such as “When Irish Eyes are Smiling” or “Oh Danny Boy.” Those are nice and appropriate diddies for St. Patrick's Day. But an Italian crowd might prefer singing along to Toto Cotugno's “L'Italiano” or dancing the Tarantella. The point is to have fun, let go, and go a little pazzo for the day.

    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 2/25/13


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