How to set a table for a genuine Italian meal


Setting the as a genuine Italian woman does is quite easy if you follow a few hints.

A child’s play… actually there is nothing difficult, do you do it every day?

I mean, do you pay homage to your male every day? Do you spend enough time on it? Do you let the table carefully?

When you sit down and have your meal quietly, you don’t only satisfy your hunger, but you also share quality time with those you love-you may talk about the day, you may exchange opinion and thoughts, talk about your children’s experiences. In this way you look after your family, you show them your love and care. Healthy habits spring from the table, the place where your love gets stronger and stronger.

What is the biggest meal of the day in Italy?

This is a famous Italian motto: have a king’s breakfast, a prince’s lunch, and a poor man’s dinner. It means that breakfast should be abundant and rich, lunch should consist of carbs, a few proteins, and plenty of vegetables. Finally, dinner should be quite light: some meat or fish, plenty od vegetables (one or two servings) and very little bread.

Unluckily, Italian habits have changed: nowadays, our lunch too often consists of a sandwich in front of the computer or at the bar. That means we are starving at dinner time and we eat much more than we should-we often exaggerate and tent to gain weight. 

What does setting the table mean?

It is something very easy to do, but we are always in a hurry, we are too busy with numberless commitments, so we have something standing up.

Yet, a little attention to the meals results in a healthier lifestyle. At least three meals a day (that’s breakfast, lunch, and dinner), they should deserve some special care: not only a healthy and balanced menù but also a harmonious table.

Although your meal is simple, a neat and properly dressed table makes it more tempting and satisfying. You and your family will enjoy any meals if food is well served.

I do not mean an elaborated and super decorated table, but a simple tidy, symmetrical one: avoid anything which makes confusion. A neat table-cloth, nice plates, properly placed cutlery help to create a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere, so you will forget about the day’s stress and anxiety, you will enjoy what you eat and you will get plenty of positive energy to re-charge your flat batteries. 

Of course, a neat and brilliant table definitely means harder work, but it is worth the bigger effort; little by little it will get natural and easy. The trick is the beginning: try to organize a simple and practical way to set your table, something you can do every day, something natural you won’t be able to do without any more.

How can you set the table properly?

There are a basic rules which create harmony and order, then set your imagination free.

  1. The base: the tablecloth, tablet mats, or the table itself.
  2. The central piece: it is usually a sort of decoration (just a salad plate, where you are going to dress the salad, for instance);
  3. The placement of plates, cutlery, and glasses.

The table-cloth is an important element: I usually opt for a light-colored one (white or cream color). In Italy red and white checked table-clothes are very fashionable, they make you feel at home. Placing the plates directly on the table is faster and easier, but it is also much colder: it means that you do not want to spend much time on enjoying what you are eating.

Fair colors make me feel more relaxed, and they are also much easier to keep clean and neat. They can be washed in the washing machine with a little bleach. Removing the stains from colored table-cloths his quite difficult because their colors fade away.

Use super-decorated, colorful, very modern table-cloths for breakfasts or lunches in the country; in my opinion they do not fit every day meals because they convey a feeling of caos, and I like to relax when I am sitting at the table.

I opt for cotton, hemp, damask linen, and linen table-cloths to set my everyday’s table.

How can you set your everyday dining table?

You need a possibly light-colored, neat and well-ironed tablecloth with matching clean napkins.

If you have the chance, do not lay the table in the kitchen, and, most of all, far from the tv-focus on what you are eating, and talk with your tablemates, avoid any meaningless distractions. Having meals in the kitchen-as I do myself because my dining room is quite inconvenient and far,   is easy and fast, but often it may result in losing control over what you want to eat. In fact, the quantity of food we have, depends on the practicality of getting to it. When you have a meal in the dining room, you take the food you want to eat (and you eat only that), in the kitchen you may grasp everything at your fingertips, as a result you eat much more than you should. Self control is needed! 

Get ready and tidy for your meal, so:

  • Wash your hands;
  • Wear suitable clothes (take your woking clothes off);
  • Always comb your hair, and tie long hair (to prevent it from falling down on the plate or on the table);
  • Switch the mobile off, and leave it in another room, so nobody and nothing will distract you (except for emergencies, or working availability).

After this introduction, a few practical hints to set the table properly:

  • Breakfast: lay a tablet mat per person, a cup, and saucer; the piece of cutlery depends on what you are eating;
  • Lunch and dinner: use a neat tablecloth, place the plates and remember to leave about 60 cm between the plates. Use tissue napkins which are paired with the tablecloth, a dinner plate and a soup bowl (according to the menù), a knife, a fork (or two), and a spoon. A glass for water and one for wine come next (I usually place the wine glass at the weekend when we are used to drinking a little wine). Do not forget the water pitcher, and then oil, vinegar, and salt dispenser.  Take an adequate serving of bread: only the quantity you want to eat, not more. A small bunch of flower in the middle of the table makes the difference: it is a kind gesture. But if you want to be more practical, place the salad plate with your side salad in the middle of the table.
How to set a table for an Italian meal
set your formal table

How can you set a formal dining room table?

First of all, lay a padding: it will protect and make your table more beautiful,  moreover it will soften the noise of the plates.

  • Opt for a plain color tablecloth (you should not use patterned ones) with a drop from 20 to 40 cm (8-16 inches);
  • The napkins should be quite big and paired with the tablecloth; fold it into a rectangle and arrange it on the left of the place (if you do not have enough room, place it onto the plate);
  • Use (silver) chargers for special occasions;
  • Place the dinner plate on the charger, then the mid-plate for the starter (if you serve a plated up starter do not use any mid-plates), no soup bowls: they will come with the food;
  • Put the knives and the spoons on the right of the charger; the knife blades should be facing towards the plate;
  • The forks are on the left of the plate (no more than 2 not to put your guests into trouble); you will take the other forks, if needed, with the courses during the meal;
  • No more than three glasses: one for the water, and two for the wine. You should not place the flute glasses, but it is allowed in Italy.  They are arranged altogether on the right, over the knives;
  • The bread plate is on the left over the forks; if you are serving butter, place the butter knife on the bread plate with the blade facing the forks.
  • Arrange a water pitcher every four dinner mates, a wine carafe and wine coasters if you take any wine bottles to the table.
  • I like table centerpieces very much; they should be low not to hinder the sight of the dinner mates; flowers should not be too perfumed, otherwise they will spoil the taste of the food.

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4 thoughts on “How to set a table for a genuine Italian meal

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