An Italian-Inspired Dinner for Eight

Classic favorites with an inventive twist from private chef Michelle Baker

Lemon sole

Michelle Baker, formerly of A Voce in New York City, developed this menu for a Italian-inspired dinner party. Filled with a combination of hearty meat dishes and lighter salads and fish dishes, there is something for everyone. — Allison Beck

Click here to see How to Host a Catered Dinner Party.



Panzanella Salad with Spicy Anchovy Dressing

Panzanella is a classic Italian bread salad. Baker says it’s good to serve any time during the year and is traditionally made using day-old ciabatta bread and whatever fresh vegetables you have on hand. Her roasted tomatoes were divine.



Pasta with Braised Short Ribs and Lamb Meatballs

This is one of those dishes that you think, short ribs and meatballs together? Insanity. But no, the short rib sauce was smooth and satisfying. The meatballs were like little balls of freshness that brightened the dish.



 Lemon Sole with Fennel and Citrus Salad

After a somewhat heavy and very meaty pasta course, Baker served a light, flaky lemon sole dish. When menu planning, think about the meal as a whole and how best to balance flavors and textures.



Espresso Chocolate Mousse with Candied Orange Peel


While chocolate mousse may not sound very exciting, when done right, it is light, smooth, and pretty incredible. Baker says that while you can prepare the chocolate mousse the day before, to achieve a light and airy texture, it is best to make it the day of and take it out of the refrigerator about an hour before serving.