Good food is at the heart of every Italian home, where families gather around the table for hours at a time.
That’s evident in a scene in the popular 2003 movie Under the Tuscan Sun, which features a large dinner party, held in the middle of an olive grove, with young and old sharing in food, wine and laughter.
It’s this quintessential expression of the Italian lifestyle, including weekends spent with the whole family, centered around food that a Fort Langley couple hopes to recreate in the Lower Mainland.
A couple months ago, Tanya and Uli Larosa created the Italian Supper Club, to offer authentic cooking classes and dinner parties in people’s homes.
The couple who have two boys, aged nine months and three years, were inspired to start the supper club after their picky toddler fell in love with home-made pasta. Having to make it every day, they thought why not bring these simple recipes to people around Metro Vancouver.
Since opening, they’ve been booked solid every weekend.
Now, to celebrate the Italian food experience, the couple are offering La Dolce Vita — pop-up dinners in two locations in Langley and one in Vancouver during the month of June.
You can’t buy tickets, you have to win to be included in the intimate outdoor dinner party, where a dozen strangers will gather under the stars, while Uli cooks an authentic Italian three-course meal in front of them.
“We’ll have candles lit and music, the settings will be stunning and the evenings promise to be magical. We are really excited to do this,” said Uli.
The dates for the pop-up dinners in Langley are June 7 and 20. Another will be held in Vancouver on June 27.
To get a seat at one of the pop-up dinners, all you have to do is go to their Facebook page, ‘Like’ them and answer a question related to Italian culture.
So far, they are revealing only one of the pop-up dinner party locations. On June 7, they will host guests at Langley’s Backyard Vineyards — where people will eat and drink among the vines.
Since beginning their new venture together, they couple has entertained in homes across Metro Vancouver, from Yaletown to Abbotsford.
Because traditional Italian suppers involve the whole family, kids are encouraged to be there.
“We have kids, so we are flexible about times,” said Tanya.
They like to keep the dinners fairly intimate, with a minimum of six but capping it at 14 people.
The Larosas arrive at your home with the menu, ingredients and the Italian chef. They cook with you and your guests, who will enjoy such classic Italian dishes as gnocchi, focaccia bread and tiramisu, all made from scratch.
The Larosas do all the dishes, so the homeowner can sit back and enjoy.
“With pasta, we start with local flour and eggs and a pasta machine,” said Uli. “Everyone gets a chance to roll out their own pasta. It can be very therapeutic.”
At one recent dinner, it was all men and they loved making the pasta.
“We have reports that they were making gnocchi the next night,” said Tanya.
“There is this perception that Italian food is too difficult, but it’s so easy and fast,” said Tanya, who calls herself Uli’s “humble assistant.”
“It is home cooking using very few ingredients with very simple recipes,” said Uli. “Even biscotti is easy to make.”
“All the recipes are in my head,” said Uli. “They are my mom’s recipes passed on to her children.”
Tanya said Uli’s sister, who lives in Calabria, Italy, is a fabulous cook and they have been at her table many times, sitting around, eating for hours.
“She is very happy we are doing this. We are always Skyping about food. Just the other day we were doing cannelloni and she was saying add a bit of red wine and it was delicious,” he said.
What’s most popular about the Italian Supper Club cooking classes is their simplicity.
“People find it hard to believe recipes can have just five ingredients,” said Uli.
For Uli, who was raised in the southern Italian region of Calabria — the toe of the boot — the Italian way of life is all he knows. He’s only lived in Langley for two years.
His family home has lemon, orange and olive groves. His dad makes his own olive oil and limoncelo.
“You can see Sicily from the beach beside our home. It would be a fantastic venue to bring visitors,” said Uli. In fact, the couple are planning a culinary tour of Italy in June 2015.
They are heading back to Uli’s family home this summer to map out places to take people.
Uli will cook a meal in his family orchard and it will be filmed and posted on their Facebook page, to give visitors an idea of what they can expect.
To that end, they are now launching Friday Italiano — with espresso take-out menus, delivering picnics to offices, homes and whereever the food needs to go.
Check out theitaliansupperclub.ca for more or call 604-753-7337.