There’s a region of Italy that feels like it was stolen straight out of a storybook: Tuscany. In person, it feels like you’ve stepped into the pages of the story, its towns built of ancient stone dotting the rolling green hilltops, tall cypress trees spiking up into the bright blue sky, miles of well-tamed vineyards and vast fields of cheery, yellow sunflowers.
You can recreate this gorgeous setting at home and whisk away your guests to the Italian countryside for a wonderful and relaxing Tuscan Tea Party.
Now that you have your theme, decide how you’ll invite your guests. If it’s just a handful of people, consider sending a hard-copy invite by snail mail; it’s always fun to get a surprise card from a friend and it’s a lovely personal touch.
When you’ve picked the date and invited your guests, the next step is setting the scene. Visualize an overall look for your event. I love searching online and through magazines for images related to my theme. Look for pictures of Italian restaurants, food, wine, landscapes — anything that sparks inspiration — and use those to start designing your décor.
Tuscan Party Decor
Pick a color palette for your party. I chose neutrals as my base colors: whites, creams, and earth tones. For color accents, I picked yellows and oranges, some foliage green, and red to harken to the rustic Italian countryside.
Sunflowers provide a beautiful pop of surprising and cheerful color that draws the eye. I like using one type of flower, or one color, and repeating it in all my arrangements. This simplifies the task and makes for an impressive visual impact.
To give my vases a Tuscan feel, I bought a roll of burlap from an art store and cut it to size, fastening it with Scotch tape and covering it with an orange bow. (Hint: Artificial flowers can work well, too. Bonus: you can save and reuse them!)
Incorporate food into your décor! Arrange some breadsticks in glassware. Use a basket of apples or lemons in your entryway. Buy a fresh basil plant to serve double-duty as food and decoration. Serve a huge bunch of red and green grapes on a wooden platter.
Planning the Menu
Now for your nosh! I recommend this simple menu:
- Mozzarella Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes and Fresh Basil Leaves on Toothpicks
- Roasted Vegetables with Italian Herb Dressing
- Red & Green Grapes
- Salami and Provolone Cheese
- Sourdough Baguettes and Basil Pesto
- Tiramisu-Inspired Pudding with Lady Fingers (recipe below)
- Lemon Basil Ice Water
- Chianti & Brunello Red Wine
- Pinot Grigio & Vernaccia White Wine
- Prosecco (Italian Sparkling Wine)
- Coffee & Tea Service (the Afternoon High Tea would be perfect)
My local market has a great deli and I knew I could buy some items pre-made, saving myself time and effort in the kitchen. If you like a more hands-on approach, you can find fun recipes to roast your own veggies, blend up your favorite pesto, and bake some fresh bread. Whether you purchase your appetizers or make them by hand, the finished product can be easily assembled in just an hour or so before guests arrive.
I recently made a full tiramisu for a large gathering, but for this party I wanted to try making something that was reminiscent of the favorite Italian dessert but required less prep. Here’s what I came up with:
Tiramisu-Inspired Pudding with Ladyfingers
Makes 4 servings.
- 1 1/2 cups prepared instant vanilla pudding (make as directed on package)
- 1 1/2 cups frozen whipped topping, softened
- 2 tablespoons cold coffee, plus extra for dipping into
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- 2 tablespoons chopped dark or milk chocolate
- Ladyfingers (2 per serving)
- Small basil leaves
- Optional: cocoa powder for dusting
Prepare the instant pudding as directed on package.
Combine 1 1/2 cups prepared pudding and remaining ingredients together in a large bowl. Once thoroughly mixed, refrigerate to set.
When ready to serve, fill four small ramekins or bowls with the pudding. Dip one end of each ladyfinger quickly into the cold coffee and then place in the pudding with the coffee-dipped end out. Place a basil leaf on top for garnish. Dust with cocoa powder if you choose.
Wine About It
The number of guests you have will determine how much wine you’ll need. My party was on the small side, with just four people attending, but I still wanted to offer a sampling of flavors. I provided two red varietals and two whites, as well as a bottle of Prosecco.
There are many, many options for Italian wines. Some of my favorites are Montepulciano D’Abruzzo or Brunello di Montalcino for reds, and of course, a Chianti. For white wine, try a Vernaccia di San Gimignano, or Italian Pinot Grigio.
Party Tuscan Style
About an hour before guests arrive, set out the food and red wine. Chill the white wine and Prosecco. Arrange the glassware, plates, and utensils on your table. Set up the coffee and tea station to brew when needed.
Nothing sets the scene like traditional Italian music, so don’t forget the tunes! Find an online radio station or a CD with a playlist that will complement your get-together.
Now it’s time to sit back and enjoy! Your guests will be delighted by the food, drink, and ambience of the Tuscan countryside. Be in the moment, go with the flow, and share in the smiles and laughter of your guests as you spend an entertaining afternoon together, Italian-style.