Italian-Style Outdoor Cooking and Drinking
Grigliata is the Italian word for an outdoor party or gathering, when food is cooked over fire. The word symbolizes not only the cooking but the shared experience of a meal outdoors.
Many people associate Italian foods with pasta and all-day bubbling sauces, but this is only a fraction of the cuisine of a diverse country that is in fact founded on separate cultures that were unified into what we know as Italy in the mid-19th century.
Fire-grilled food is one of humanity’s most ancient traditions, and flame-driven cooking methods have been refined and influenced by cultures and communities around the world. From South American parrilla to smoking embers in Nordic flavors, the heat of the fire fuels more than nutrition — it’s also about gathering, sharing, and the elevation of simple ingredients.
Tuscany’s Bistecca Alla Fiorentina is one of the most renowned meals in Italy, with many travelers and visitors coming home with memories of gigantic cuts of beef, served rare and to share, seasoned with only salt, pepper, olive oil, and perhaps a few local herbs and spices. Or what about spiedini (skewers) for grilled veggies, sausage, or other meats? A classic appetizer is bruschetta “little burnt ones”, thick-sliced bread mopped in garlic and drizzled with olive oil before a few moments over the fire. These are all ideas that can be done at home, from your big backyard to a tiny grill on your urban balcony. Simple and clear methods mean that anyone can try them.
One of the most popular foods from the Italian flame culture is wood-fired pizzas. From industrial-sized ovens at your favorite restaurant, to today’s portable pizza grills, this is one of the season’s most sought-after tastes. Our team particularly loves Ooni Pizza Ovens and the recipes they offer on their site. From the classic dough run-down to the Italian invention of Torta Pasqualina, we are fascinated by all that these little grills can do!
Warm weather wine for grilling runs the range: from refreshing rosé to bright whites to chillable reds, there aren’t any rules, because it all depends on what you’re cooking. Eric Asimov of The New York Times mentions lighter-bodied reds “for when the weather is sultry” and we love to find chillable versions to suit some of our favorite grilled meals. (There’s more than a few votes for Italian Dolcetto from our staff.) Wine Folly suggests Orvieto, (from the Grechetto grape) for grilled chicken. Decanter names Valpolicella as an excellent option for meaty grilled fish.
For an all around favorite, we’ve got our eye on Sangiovese, namely Chianti Classico, for a well-rounded option that tastes great with so many of our top Italian grigliata meals. We’re also drinking wines from Sicily, Etna Rosso in particular. Here’s to your summer fire, Italian-style and with people you love, no matter where you are this time of year.