Annette Joseph knows how to throw a party — she is confident, full of laughs and totally at ease, as she whips up one Italian dish after another while guests simply sit back in awe of her skill. Annette learned from the best: after working alongside Gwyneth Paltrow, living alongside her best Italian girlfriends and spending over 20 years in the business of entertaining, cooking, and styling, it’s no surprise that the end product is perfection. “Nothing scares me about entertaining. People come to see you; once you realize this, that it’s the essence of entertaining, it takes all the pressure off. No fear.” Last fall, Annette released her book Picture Perfect Parties, and we all dashed to hear the entertaining queen’s stylish secrets. She beautifully brought the feel of Italian Riviera to her Atlanta home for this week’s installment of Entertaining With, and we couldn’t be more inspired!
photography by kathryn mccrary
What is your signature entertaining dish?
I love to cook all sorts of things, so I really don’t have a “signature” dish. However, I think the one thing you can expect on every menu is something Mediterranean. I love that flavor profile.
What was your inspiration for this party?
We live on the Italian Riviera all summer. We just love the vibe there. The food is inspired by the sea as is my playlist. It’s just the perfect pool party. It’s a way for guests to experience what we experience every summer at our Italian Riviera Beach Club.
What’s on the menu today?
“The Negroni Fizz” a Negroni with a bubbly twist
Olives, Sweet Peppers, Parmesan Crisps & Salami rolls
Grilled Caesar Salad
Frutti di Mare
Affogato with Biscotti
What is always in your refrigerator?
Almond milk, arugula, red onions, feta and parmesan cheese, vegetables, garlic, shallots, anchovies, olives, Greek yogurt, some sort of green juice, raspberries and blueberries.
All summer long we enjoy this pasta (Pasta Frutti de Mare) in Italy. My son loves this pasta dish and orders it almost every time we go out. It’s a must on this Riviera Party menu. Living by the sea all summer is such a treat, and making this at home brings back all those great summer memories for me. I like to serve this in a large white bowl to show off the seafood.
What host or hostess do you admire? Who inspires you?
Ina Garten. I would love to go to her home for a dinner party. She seems talented and lovely.
I am inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow; I worked for her, and I can tell you she’s the real deal. Plus, she’s a great cook!
I am continually inspired by my Italian girl friends; they have such effortless style in everything they do.
What is your entertaining style in five words or less?
Italian, casual, abundance in everything, flowers, food and fun. Oops…that’s 9 words.
What has been your most memorable night of entertaining guests?
My guests in Italy are so much fun; Monica Damonte is my BFF in Italy. She’s hilarious, and always fun; she is the party.
I loved having Peter Rockwell, Norman Rockwell’s son, to our home. It was a super fun party. He’s a sculptor, and brilliant and interesting.
My friend Jeannette, Montgomery Barron is a fun guest — she has the most interesting stories.
Mona Kuhn is really amazing as well; the amazing interior designer, Bill Peace and his wife Malissa; and Karen Mooney, the creative director for Ballard Design, and her husband Joe Mooney, are probably our number one FUN guests. I could write a much bigger list because as I said all of our friends are fun and interesting.
How and when did you break into the styling business?
I have been styling for 20 years. I tease my assistants, and say I was styling before Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. I started my career as a window dresser in New York. When we moved to Atlanta, I met a photographer who needed a photo stylist. He asked me if I wanted to be a photo stylist — I had no idea what that was. He had me come to the studio to observe a photo shoot. I liked what I saw and told him I think I could do this, and that’s how it all began. We used to go to the studio and work in the dark everyday, and no one even knew what I did for a living. I used to tell people I was a designer because describing what I did was too complicated. Now everyone knows what a stylist is. I feel like I started the profession because I have been at it so long.
Get the recipe for Annette’s Negroni Fizz Cocktail here
What is the most important part of entertaining to you?
Guest list…hands down.
What is your perfect dinner party playlist?
I love all sorts of music, so my playlists are always mixed with new music, electronic, disco and the 90s, Latin and Italian, Brazilian and classic standard love songs, and sometimes a little blues and R&B. I do think it’s important to craft a playlist that starts the mood slow and transitions to faster dance music, ending the party with soft love songs. My party playlists always run about 3 hours, the duration of a party.
What are your must-have entertaining tools?
In my book Picture Perfect Parties, I talk about my entertaining tools so everyone can be prepared for any occasion.
I have 2 essential lists:
– The Party Pantry
– The Party Toolbox
Since I’m a food-stylist I think about how I am going to plate every dish. Check out my pretty plate makeover posts here.
What was one of the best meals of your life that you will never forget?
Highlights would be The French Laundry, Uchiko in Austin, lunch in the Piedmont Region of Italy, near Barolo at a family restaurant. One of our favorite meals would be a hamburger at the Café de Paris in Monaco. We go every time we are at our home in Italy…we live about 45 minutes from Monaco, sometimes you just need a great burger.
Who do you usually have over for dinner parties?
I curate my guest list. I think this is super important. Mixing your close friends and clients and people you’d like to get to know better is always the way to go. Of course guests that have things in common is always super important! Sunday supper is usually the same friends, a closer knit group so it’s more of an intimate family evening.
Who are your dream dinner party guests?
Someone who loves to talk a lot, tell interesting stories, and jokes. I love guests that dance and start an impromptu dance party. Fortunately, I know lots of people with these attributes. I always love a guest that travels because they have the best stories.
What is the taste you are always craving?
I am more about texture. I love anything smooth or crunchy. It changes day to day.
What is your current favorite color palette for parties?
I am a little obsessed pink and coral right now. I always love kelly green. Of course all of this on a crisp white linen tablecloth, which is a must in every party pantry.
What is the entertaining rule you never break?
Guests are always number 1, making guests feel at home and taken care of is the most important rule I never break.
What is the first thing you cut from a party when you can’t “do it all?”
Dessert. It’s the easiest thing to buy, something simple like great gelato, and take down the stress level 10 fold.
What is your standard hosting outfit?
Anything with ¾ length sleeve, so I can cook and look good without getting anything on my sleeves.
What’s next for Annette Joseph?
I am off to Italy for the summer, and then back in the Fall…that’s about all on the agenda — and it’s a pretty great agenda!