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My daughters ‘big fat Italian’ wedding at Villa Romantica

Inviting more than 12 people for dinner at home can be challenging and when the number of guests increases to 75 it becomes stressful, but when the occasion is the wedding of your own daughter… that’s when it gets insane.

But I grew up in Italy, in an extended family of about 10 kids – amongst close and distant cousins – and almost all of us seemed to have birthdays between May and September. The women in the family spent weekends exchanging ideas and recipes and over the years they became consummate birthday party planners. If you need inspiration, you need to watch Enrico Oldoini’s 2004 Italian comedy ‘13dici a tavola’ – ‘13 at the table’.

As we came to age, the step between a birthday party to a wedding reception was surprisingly easy. Our girls where still little when we all went back to Italy for a typical Italian wedding, but the impression must have been a lasting one, as Martha (my middle daughter – 22) decided to replicate it in our home for her own wedding. Self-catered of course. The idea was scary, but we managed to get through brilliantly and even had fun in the process.

So what’s on the menu?

The menu selection took quite a bit of time and presented a few challenges. The guests were a mix of Kiwis and Italians – with a few Greeks, Russians and Australians. To make things a bit more interesting; the season, mid-November is almost summer in New Zealand, this allowed for a limited choice of fresh ingredients. The schedule; by the time the ceremony and the photo shooting session was over, the guests would be famished. Thankfully, Italians invented ‘aperitivo’ – not a mere pre-meal drink, but an array of little delicious morsels that please the eyes and bridges to the meal (to fill the gap).

There was one other aspect we had to take into consideration… the mother of the bride (me!) needed to stay out of the kitchen! Every detail, from the presentation of the platters to the timing the food was to be served, needed to be pre-organized and rehearsed.

Me, oh my

The choice of desserts – buffet style – proved to be the most demanding. The expectation for a typical Italian dessert, the tiramisu above all, was obvious, but what else?  We wanted the dessert table to look not only scrumptious but choreographically impressive. It took me quite a bit of thinking and a number of family discussions at the dinner table

Once again, the dessert idea stemmed from the memory of a happy family occasion. Fifteen years ago, at my sister’s wedding in Greece, the dessert was a dense and creamy Greek yogurt topped with local honey and fresh peaches. As I wanted to create a center piece, I decided to use a whole honeycomb on its frame. I gave the idea a NZ twist by choosing Manuka honey. We placed the frame on a book stand, so it could ooze onto a large bowl of buffalo yogurt, surrounded by an abundance of fresh strawberries, blueberries and raspberries.

What a success! One daughter down, two to go!

You can watch her wedding video here.

Rotolo di spinaci
Ricotta and spinach thinly wrapped in pasta, served with sage, butter and grated cheese (slightly melted)
One of three food tables with a selection of salads (garden salad, potato curry salad, and chickpea & pumpkin salad) with glazed ham and smoked salmon
Cake made by Ryan’s Aunty
Three tier – 1st Chocolate cake, 2nd Lemon, 3rd Carrot cake
The Bride and Groom cutting the cake
Our secluded home: The Villa Romantica venue