A Romantic Italian Christmas At Home

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Bubbles are a romantic sip for Christmas. Credit: Jill Barth

In Memory of My Grandpa Bob

My grandparents were married for 67 years. We lost my grandpa earlier this month, and as I remember all the things I learned from him, I am convinced that his gift for romance will be his legacy. He never missed a moment to poetically remember or relate to his wife. His toasts to their years together and the family they’d created were a part of every celebration. I still see him, glass in hand, at their anniversary – an event for which he’d prepared a few touching words, and they brought tears to our eyes. Still do. We all agree that it was his romantic love for my grandma that will be the footprint that fossilizes – the not-going-anywhere energy that remains in his space.

My grandmother once shared with me that she and her friends (most of them great-grandmothers by that point) had a conversation about what phase of life was the ‘best’, looking back. “Most of us say it was when the kids were still home.” She said.

When I started putting together my ideas for a holiday meal, this impression of hers came to mind. Those big family feasts – early morning breakfasts while Santa’s great red mess decorates the floor – Christmas Eve roasts that heat up the house while the kids run ‘round the island and cold drinks are kept on the back porch – Pizza nights during decorating, with string lights and carols… this was actually what popped into my heart immediately. You see, my husband and I (married 16 years) are in that sweet spot that my Grandmother described. The kids are still home. Each and every night (sleepovers, camps, and vacations aside) they snooze down the hall from us, our Yorkie making certain we know the moment they take a bathroom break.

wines to serve at Christmas, Christmas in Italy, Italian wines

Christmastime is family time. Credit: Jill Barth

Our Christmas will be centered on them. Every holiday meal we eat – from the Boy Scout Court of Honor to my sister-in-law’s famous Christmas Eve feast – will be with them. I’ve been told (heck, I tell myself) that these days go fast. How many times has someone said ‘in the blink of an eye’? And I’m suspended between enjoying every moment and terror that my life will grow wings that reduce time to a single flap. Like most people, I’m not comfortable with it flying away.

By my calculations, we’ll have at minimum 22 years total where the kids are still home. Probably a bit more, as nothing is precise. But let’s say we have 22 years. And, if we are lucky, let’s say we have 67 years of marriage – same as my grandparents. That leaves 45 years where the kids aren’t still home, 45 years where we will be blessed to share only part of the holiday season with them.

Sure, there’s something about that thought that hurts. Actually, I feel it in my heart as I write. But there is hope in my grandpa’s life philosophy. 45 years of…romance. Of dinners for two. Of dinners with music, and great wine, and succulent things that children don’t always appreciate. Of woks and fondue pots, and the glorious leisure of the 70’s when it was acceptable for adults to ignore the kids in favor of pleasure. Of keeping the little drink umbrellas in the bar, rather than the Barbie house. Why not celebrate a romantic holiday at home now, even when the kids are still here?

After all, they do make plans, they do go out, they do sometimes go to bed early. While my three foodies do indeed cast guilt about when they are left out of mussels in garlic sauce, Cornish hens, baked clams – they don’t (yet) get to share the Prosecco and Rosato anyway. They don’t drink Chardonnay or Chianti Reserva – so we can set aside something romantic for ourselves without waiting for the bill from the University of Pennsylvania (or for the days when we are grandparents ourselves).

What a gorgeous realization this was to me, to see the fluidity in our family life – not just the phase when the kids are still home versus the phase when we get 45 years ‘to ourselves’. I went into the cellar and pulled our four wines that spoke to me for the occasion of a romantic Italian Christmas dinner at home. A zippy Prosecco, a fluid Rosato, a rich Chardonnay, and a robust Chianti Classico.

Rosato Wine, Chianti, Italian Wine, Holiday Wine, Romantic Wine

Prosecco, Chardonnay, Rosé di Primitivo, Chianti Classico – a romantic lineup for a holiday meal at home. Credit: Jill Barth

Salted Almonds (Prosecco) > Warm Potato + Egg Salad (Rosé di Primitivo) > Steak with Herb Sauce (Chianti Classico)> Side of Proscuitto-Wrapped Asparagus (Chardonnay)
A Romantic Italian Christmas At Home

I associate Giuliana Prosecco ($15) with some of the excellent date night restaurants in my hometown of Chicago including RMP Steak – during dinner there my hubby and I saw some of the just-Stanley-cupped Chicago Blackhawks dining with…well, let’s just say….it all looked pretty romantic. Why not, right? This wine is made from 100% Glera, the traditional Prosecco-making varietal. Bubbles are crafted in the Charmant method in which the second fermentation takes place in a tank (rather than in the bottle). I would start out with this bottle (we always do an apéro) and a simple handful of salted almonds. Bonus > Purchase new, elegant glasses for your bubbles. Everyone has a preference, so use the type of stemware you find most beautiful to hold, to toast, to sip.

One of our favorite sides-slash-appetizers is roasted prosciutto-wrapped asparagus. We sweep on a bit of olive oil, sea salt, and pepper before it hits the oven. This is one of those well-balanced bites that has it all, the vegetal asparagus, the fatty salt of the prosciutto and the sharp snap of fresh black pepper – the oil ties it all together. Tellus Chardonnay Umbria IGP 2015 ($16) comes from the Cotarella family and is fully fresh, soaked in delicious acid, grown in pebbly soil in the heart of Umbria. Bonus > Fresh flowers always make the mood – for Christmas purchase a bouquet with fragrant balsam greenery. 

San Marzano Tramari Rosé di Primitivo Salento IGP ($10) is made from 100% Primativo grapes grown at in beautiful Salento, Puglia. When it comes to Italian rosé or Rosato, I tend to lean towards Puglia for a lovely glass of wine. The winery used the tasting note “Mediterranean maquis” and I love that this term was applied. Maquis is the herbal shrub-land that we call garrigue – a flavor profile common to Provence. Beautiful savory impression and bright glow. My husband loves eggs (so to charm him) I’d suggest a lovely warm potato and egg salad, Florentine style, with this one. Bonus > Nothing is better than a fireplace – if you can’t light one at home, consider sitting around another meaningful spot, a low coffee table with a nice cloth, or by a window with a view of the sunset.

My husband and I enjoy pretty much every sort of food but classically, when we have a treat dinner, one of us chooses a steak. The main course of a romantic Italian holiday at home could easily be a steak with herb sauce. I have had my eye on the Chianti Classico di MonteMaggio (€8) for months. I know this is generally seen as a pasta wine, but with the freshness of the herbs on this steak, I like the idea of the acidity handling the full package of flavor. Bonus > Most romantic is listening, paying attention – focus on great conversation, a well-timed smile, and a fond recollection of the years gone by.

Italian Food, Wine & Travel

Our Italian Food, Wine & Travel group is focused on Italian wines for a Christmas feast, the December theme and our last for the 2017 year. Thank you for reading all of our posts and for joining me on L’Occasion throughout the year as I’ve written about Italy with this group.

Look forward to these posts and then join us on Saturday, December 2, 2017, at 10am central time on twitter – use the hashtag #ItalianFWT to discover our chat and to join in!

Katarina from Grapevine Adventures brings us “Sparkling Wine All Through the Christmas Dinner with D’Araprì Winery.”

Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla offers up “Buon Natale, Baccalà, and Barolo”

Tracy from The Traveling Somm shares “Tis the Season for Barolo.”

Lauren from The Swirling Dervish pens a piece entitled “Feast of the Seven Fishes and Wines to Match.”

Lynn Gowdy from Savor the Harvest adds “A Vin Santo Holiday”

Here on L’Occasion we enjoy “A Romantic Italian Christmas At Home.”

Susannah at Avvinare has written about “Prosecco DOCG and Chianti Rufina, Wines for the Christmas Feast.”

Note: Some wines appearing on L’occasion were media samples. All opinions and stories are my own.

13 thoughts on “A Romantic Italian Christmas At Home

  1. I’ve not kept up well but you know this post caught my eye. You may know I’m a bit of a romantic myself and so enjoyed hearing your stories, I can picture the faces, the smiles. And now as a nod to you my dear one I’m going to see about replicating this Christmas dinner in with my beloved. I do adore you and hold tight to all that once was and all we’ve come to be: mothers on this earth, in this time, creating, laughing, learning, sipping and loving together. How wonderful my life is wrapped up with yours.


  2. Love that “sweet spot” your grandmother described, that you are enjoying now! You are lucky to have the fabulous memories of her and your grandfather, of family traditions and many more romantic years after the kids move on. Thanks for sharing your special memories and holiday feast ideas!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It does go faster than you ever imagined and it is very important to keep the love and romance alive because it is going to be just the two of you for much longer than it is family. You are a wise woman so I’m sure your wine selections are wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is so lovely. I cried when reading about your grandpa and his romantic love for your grandma. I am so sorry for you loss. I then cried again at the thought of the time you have remaining with your kids at home. We became empty nesters this fall. I was happy to have my kids home for Thanksgiving and looking forward to their return in a couple of week. Your meal and wine pairings sound perfect for a romantic Italian Christmas at home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sorry I missed your comment last week! I cried when writing it – so much emotion. I am sure your kids loved being home as much as you loved having them. Enjoy the holiday season with everyone you love. Cheers, Michelle!


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