Hosting Tips

A Springtime Aperitivo Party with Franciacorta

By Camille Styles
Outdoor entertaining is our favorite thing during the spring

The art of the aperitivo. I first discovered it on my honeymoon in Capri a few years ago, when Adam and I would start each evening with a glass of wine on the scene-y terrace of our hotel to people watch and relax. We soon learned that the Italians take this ritual very seriously: not only does the aperitivo include a series of delicious bites and drinks; it’s a serious social event in itself.

Last week, in celebration of the warmer temps, I invited a few friends to join me poolside to introduce them to this amazing Italian tradition, along with one of my newest discoveries, the award-winning Italian sparkling wine called Franciacorta. We enjoyed a perfect evening of tasting a variety of the wines paired with a few delicious springtime bites… click through the slides for all the details!

*photos by Dagnushka

The word “aperitivo” is derived from the Latin phrase that means “to open,” as in, opening up the appetite before a meal. Drinks and hors d’oeuvres should be light and just a couple bites each — enough to tempt the tastebuds without filling you up before dinner.

I’m a huge fan of sparkling wine, so it’s been fascinating to learn about Franciacorta. The term defines a territory and the production method for creating this incredible sparkling wine. Produced exclusively in northern Italy, the wines are produced by the traditional method of re-fermentation in the same bottle, known in France as the “champagne method.”

Pictured left to right: Franciacorta Brut – Villa Emozione; Franciacorta Brut – Antica Fratta, Franciacorta Satèn – La Montina; Franciacorta Rosé – Montenisa; Franciacorta Rosé – Lo Sparviere, Monique; Franciacorta Brut – Lantieri

Traditional aperitivo snacks include olives, nuts, meats, cheeses, and breads, though when we were in Italy, we were also served stuffed peppers, little crostini, and the most heavenly fried artichokes.

I sent notes to all the girls telling them to get ready for a laid back afternoon of sips and bites. There’s no question that a snail mail invite makes everything a bit more special, but jotting the details on personal stationery keeps it feeling easy breezy and casual.

On to the flowers: can you believe that I picked up all these gorgeous blooms at the neighborhood grocery store? Sometimes it works to opt for quantity: find some really inexpensive roses or lilies in pretty colors, then buy tons of them and arrange loosely in vases of different heights for a lush display.

Here’s what I served for the aperitivo:

  • pesto & prosciutto pizzettes
  • caesar salad crudités
  • wedge of parmesan, marcona almonds, marinated olives

Get the recipe for these Prosciutto and Pesto Pizzettes here.

The region of Franciacorta is located just 1 hour east of Milan in Lombardy, with picturesque vineyard-clad hills, medieval towers and castles. It’s the Official Toast of Milan Fashion Week, and is a major favorite of Italy’s tastemakers and fashionistas.

Get the recipe for the Caesar Dressing and Crudités platter here.

Wine tasting. It can be intimidating, but at my house, we’re all about keeping it fun and unpretentious. I’m not into fancy swirling, but I do find that it enhances my enjoyment if I take a sniff to process the aromas of a new wine. Think about whether you pick up on notes like flowers, herbs, spices, fruits, minerality, or anything else! Then take a sip and see if you savor the same types of notes.

Pictured from left to right: Franciacorta Brut – Lantieri; Franciacorta Brut – Villa Emozione; Franciacorta Rosé – Lo Sparviere, Monique

This bottle of Franciacorta Brut from the Lantieri winery was one of my favorites. It has a fresh and slightly sweet flavor and is really versatile, pairing great with hors d’oeuvres, lightly grilled meats, and soft cheeses.

Here’s one of my favorite party tricks: bring indoor furniture to the backyard to dress up your outdoor space! I carried this one out from Phoebe’s room and it made the perfect centerpiece for guests to perch with their glasses of bubbly.

Every hostess has got to have a tiered serving tray in her arsenal: arrange a mix of little appetizers on each level, and you’ve got instant height (and style) for an hors d’oeuvres spread.

The Franciacorta Brut Villa Emozione is known for its straw yellow color, and has notes of flowers and fresh fruits. Its elegant flavor makes it perfect as an aperitif.

When deciding what menu items to serve at an aperitivo, keep in mind that ingredients and wines that are grown in the same region will often complement each other. Crumbly Parmigiano-Reggiano is a deliciously salty pairing with Franciacorta, and it’s interesting to notice the flavors they bring out in each other. Also think about foods that are delicious served at room temperature since they’ll be sitting out on the buffet for awhile: these olives, marcona almonds, and fresh fruit are perfect additions to any aperitivo spread.

Franciacorta was the first sparkling wine in Italy to receive the highest designation of quality – DOCG – and the self-imposed quality control regulations for the wines are significantly stricter than those used to produce any other sparkling wine in the world, including Champagne.

The girls definitely brought their footwear A-game to this party, don’t you think?

pictured left to right: jazz sandals by sigerson morrison, reina heels by ulla johnson, black sandals from zara

I placed a couple of ice filled buckets around the party space so that guests could help themselves to a taste of the next bottle of Franciacorta as the evening went on.

I’m officially declaring this the perfect way to kickoff warm weather season with friends. And remember, the aperitivo doesn’t need to be fancy: at it’s simplest, the tradition is really just about gathering people together. Set out a few snacks, open a bottle of Franciacorta, and gather around the table to enjoy it together. Salute!