For wine-shop owner -- and consummate host -- Marco Pasanella, a successful party is all about bounty.
When Marco Pasanella opened his wine shop, Pasanella and Son Vintners, in New York City's South Street Seaport seven years ago, he parked a 1967 Ferrari smack-dab in the middle of the space. "That car represented my "Dolce Vita" vision of what the shop was going to be," says Pasanella, who grew up spending summers with his father in Italy. And while the Ferrari has since been replaced with a Fiat, his original vision has played out: The shop is now known as much for its lively tasting parties as it is for its wine selection. Here, Pasanella shares his secrets to throwing a great party. "It's all about abundance," says Pasanella, who writes about his wine-selling adventures in his new book, "Uncorked" (Clarkson Potter, $24). "Abundance means ease and enjoyment. There's just a certain kind of pleasure in bounty."
An Old World Spread
The centerpiece of this wine-tasting party at Pasanella and Son is an extra-long table featuring mounds of bread, charcuterie, cheese, and grapes. "Food and wine, it goes hand in hand here," says Marco Pasanella (who co-owns the shop with his wife, Martha Stewart Living decorating editor Rebecca Robertson). "It's an Italian thing -- very much my background."
"Abundance means ease and enjoyment, " says Marco Pasanella of his entertaining style. "There's just a certain kind of pleasure in bounty."
How He Does It
Pasanella's rules for a memorable fete, whether it's a wine-and-cheese affair for a crowd or a small dinner party.
1. Put It On Paper
"We dress up a buffet table with brown paper that we get from a packing-supply place. You can crumple it up and throw it away afterward, and you haven't spent more than a dollar."
Kraft paper roll, 30" by 40', staples.com.
2. Tier It Up
"Tiered stands -- ours are from an old Martha by Mail catalog -- get things up in the middle of the table, which makes it look so dramatic. We love to have mounds of grapes cascading off the tiers, which are lined with parchment paper."
3. Go Big
"The idea is to have two or three things in large quantities that don't cost very much. We often have pizza bianca from Sullivan Street Bakery. They're six feet long, so they take up a lot of space. Or we pile up little squares of pizza from Sullivan Street."
4. Don't Be Chintzy with the Cheese
"Have just a few different kinds, but have sizable chunks -- otherwise the spread will feel a little bit stingy, not as joyful."
5. Take It Easy
"To make it easier for our guests to nibble while they walk around, I love enamel plates, which are much easier to balance than porcelain -- and less breakable! We stuff simple white flowerpots with silverware. They look festive and take almost no time to set up."
GSI enamelware stainless-steel rim dinner plates, in White, japanese-sushi.net.
6. Pick a Theme
"For a wine-tasting party at home or the store, we usually pick a loose theme -- all bottles under $15, or all from northern Italy. Martha loves Burgundy wines, so for a party for Living, for instance, I served several classic French wines."
7. Fine-Tune the Music
"Cesaria Evora, a singer from the Cape Verde Islands, is perfect party music. It's just festive enough to put people in the mood, but not so in your face that guests can't talk or are too busy trying to mouth the words."
8. Fry Up Some Sage
My wife likes it when I fry sage leaves for a party -- lightly battered and served with crushed sea salt. They're just great as you're sipping wine. And everyone loves them -- fried food, go figure."
9. Pair Thoughtfully
"At the shop, we organize some wines according to what foods they work best with because we realized that's how most people shop for wine. Similarly, for a dinner party, I like to think in pairings. Some of my favorites right now are Moscato and lemon risotto, Riesling and salt-crusted mussels, and good Beaujolais -- which is really affordable -- and good, plain old roast chicken."