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Nov 1, 2009 10:22 PM

MIdwest dinner for Italians

Hey all, I am in need of some help. I will be going to Ancona, a small town on the eastern coast of Italy, in June and will be cooking a dinner for a family of 13 italians. I really want to make them a very traditional midwestern summer dinner and here were my thoughts,

Deviled Eggs
I need something else maybe a dip of sorts

First course
Fresh tomato gazpacho
Needs something

pan fried chicken
Mashed potatoes
Sauted fresh corn of the cob?
A mixed salad

Strawberry short cake with vanilla ice cream

Not sure about availibility or ease of making this menu, any thoughts?

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  1. Onion dip with ruffles would be fun. Mini pigs in a blanket, saw this the other day on FN (Hardy Boys), cut dogs into smaller pieces and wrap with puff pastry strips. I thought Gazpacho was a Spanish dish. Not sure if fried green tomatoes are midwestern, but they are good. I like to throw my corn, husks and all in the oven at 350 for 30 min. They come out perfect with all their corny flavor intact! Just peel back the husks and the silk peels right off. What about a Jello salad?

    1. First of all, Ancona is not a small town, it's a provincial capital as well as capital of the Marche region, population 100k +.

      Deviled eggs would be fine, but bring your own mustard and paprika, if they figure in your recipe. Guacamole might be an idea. You can probably get avocados from Israel, but they probably won't be ripe when you buy them. Celery boats with gorgonzola would work. What do you normally eat?

      I'd nix gazpacho. It's not midwestern, it's Spanish and has become quite well known in Italy. Again, what do you normally eat for a first course? A three-bean salad might work, but make sure the green beans are cooked tender or the Italians won't eat them.

      Pan-fried chicken would be good, but no fresh corn. Even if you see ears (panocchie), they will make you weep for the cornfields of North America. Canned corn is OK, but not very interesting.

      Strawberry shortcake would probably work.

      I have to say, I think this is very ambitious and risks being thankless. I do modified July 4 barbecue stuff here in Rome for a gang of young and not-so-young Italian engineers and almost always have leftover cole slaw, but they do love the hamburgers and are pretty good with the potato salad. The Italian dishes go much faster. I would love for your Anconetani to see how delicious a midwestern summer dinner can be, but think about this very carefully. You're right to start early.

      5 Replies
      1. re: mbfant

        I was thinking potato salad too. I think they would balk at pasta salad. Can you buy dressing in Italy? You could use it as a veggie dip.

        1. re: ginnyhw

          Ranch dressing- the "Ranch" disappeared.

          1. re: ginnyhw

            i'm wondering if the mayonaisse-y and sweet style dressings, like for cole slaw and 3-bean salad, may flop. italians simply don't eat that way. and definitely no pasta salad. potato salad with a vinaigrette dressing maybe.

            agree about nixing the gazpacho.

            i'm not from the midwest, but are onion dip or pigs in a blanket really the highlight of that local cuisine?

            i don't know how much time you'll have between arriving and your meal, but it makes far more sense to me to head to the local markets, buy what looks best and do your midwestern twist on it.

            1. re: ginnyhw

              I'd be amazed if you can buy ranch dressing in Italy. I think it's exclusively American - you don't get it in the UK either.

              1. re: ginnyhw

                Caution on potato salad: my mom made a typical summer picnic meal as a thank-you to an Italian family who'd fed us a very nice holiday lunch - this was in a small town near Brindisi. Fried chicken, green salad and potato salad, our old family recipe of potatoes, eggs and chopped onion plus mayonnaise. The chicken and green salad were well received, but the potato salad was apparently inedible to them because of the onion. They were polite about it, but their aversion was all too obvious.

            2. Hmm. I'm not under the impression that fresh corn is very prevalent in Italy- I think that's a pretty American thing (maybe others can say for sure?). I also don't think the color would be right-- to many browns, yellows, and beiges might not look too appetizing. What about fresh peas and pearl onions? For the apps, Chowhound just had a recipe for carmelized onion dip which is a homemade spin on French Onion Dip-- might be yummy. The gazpacho doesn't strike me as quite right either, but I can't think of a great alternative that is specifically midwestern. I actually wonder if you could do a spin on the goat cheese croquette salad with fried cheese curds over salad as a first course? That would certainly be midwestern! Or maybe a plate of local cheeses and some sliced beer-poached grilled brats (not sure what your travel plans are, if transport would be feasible) with good local mustard and some pickles (kind of an American antipasto plate). A little heavy, though.

              1. I definitely see where you're going with the whole thing! My suggestions:

                Deviled eggs
                carrots and celery with french onion dip (the real stuff, not the powdered mix)

                grilled mixed veggies
                potato salad
                three-bean salad (or a layered salad, or a jello mold, or copper penny salad)
                big plate of sliced tomatoes -- this is absolutely a fixture at all summer meals in my family, and has been since my grandfather was a wee lad

                fried chicken
                burgers or brats

                Strawberry shortcake with whipped cream UNLESS you're making the ice cream yourself!

                While I love them, I think mashed potatoes and gravy are far too heavy and hot for summertime.

                Sounds like SO much fun! :)

                1. Nix the gazpacho. I doubt you'll find much if any corn on the cob worth eating: it's not only too early in the season, but it's really a North American thing to eat. Polenta is probably the most commonly found form of maize in certain Italian regions, but it would be hard to replicate the many uses of sweet corn in the American diet. (As for cornmeal: If spoonbread were midwestern rather than from the upper South, I'd suggest that, particularly the versions where egg whites and yolks are separated.)

                  Another dessert to consider would be Shaker lemon pie.