This semester, I studied abroad in Rome, Italy. While my semester was cut short, I was still able to immerse myself in Italian culture. By the time I was sent back to the U.S., I felt like Rome was my second home. The streets of Rome began to look familiar. I had adjusted to the slower paced lifestyle. I ate dinner around 9pm. I hopped on and off the tram like a local. I was so excited to share this experience with my family when they would come to visit. My family was supposed to visit me this week, but because of the current situation, like everyone else, we’re stuck at home. To make up for the missed trip, or at least try, I decided to transport my family to Italy for the night. There are two important elements to consider: the ambiance and the food.

I put my sister in charge of the decor. She hung string lights along the table, lit candles and found a bomb Italian playlist on Spotify. We brought out our nice table cloth and china. The table was complete with a menu of the night's courses. 

Emily Noel

Welcome to Trattoria Noel.


First things first, we started with drinks.

Emily Noel

In Italy, larger meals consist of several courses. Aperitivo is the first course and is similar to a happy hour you would see in the U.S. This course includes drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, that are lighter, such as sparkling wine. We broke out Italian Prosecco, which is a sparkling white wine, traditionally served as an aperitif.  


Next is Antipasto, a course filled with cold and light starters like charcuterie, cheeses, and of course, bruschetta. I chose to make bruschetta, a classic Italian starter made up of toasted bread topped with diced tomatoes tossed in garlic, olive oil, fresh basil, salt and pepper. Different variations of brushetta can be topped with beans, cured meat, or cheese, but this is my favorite kind.

Emily Noel


Then we moved onto Primo, the first main course consisting of non-meat dishes. Of course, in honor of Rome, I had to make Cacio e Pepe, the cheesy pasta originating in Rome.

Emily Noel

Cacio e Pepe translates to Cheese and Pepper. Cacio e Pepe is so simple, yet so perfect. Most authentic Italian food is made simply with few ingredients. The quality of the ingredients and the integrity with which you handle them is what makes Italian food so special. Cacio e Pepe is easy to make at home, but I brought back a Cacio e Pepe mix from Rome, so we used that.

Emily Noel

The directions were to simply add olive oil and boiling water to the spice mix. I used the pasta making skills I'd learned while abroad to make pasta from scratch using only two ingredients: flour and eggs. Cacio e pepe traditionally uses tagliolini or bucatini, but I opted for fettuccine to make it easier on myself.

Emily Noel


After Primo, it should be time for Secondo e Contorno, the meat and vegetable course. Being the Americans, we are, we filled up on the bruschetta and pasta, so we opted to forgo this course. Next, is Insalata.

Emily Noel

Unlike, in the U.S. where salad is served before the main dish, Insalata is served after the heavier courses. Like the other dishes, salads are simply made of mixed greens and fresh tomatoes dressed with oil and vinegar.


Our Italian night is not over yet. We still have Dolce, or dessert.


Arguably the most classic Italian dessert, Tiramisu is a coffee, chocolate and cream dessert. It consists of layers of espresso soaked ladyfingers, mascarpone whipped cream, and cocoa powder.

Emily Noel
Panna Cotta

To balance out the rich coffee and chocolate flavors, I made a fruity dessert too. Another classic Italian delicacy is Panna Cotta. Panna Cotta is sweet, creamy gelatine dessert. I made Vanilla Panna Cotta with a Mixed Berry Jam.

Emily Noel


The grand finale to our meal was the Digestivo. This typically consists of a small serving of strong liquor like Grappa, Amaro, or Limoncello. The Digestivo is meant to aid in digestion and should be sipped slowly, not taken like a shot. We opted for the limoncello I brought home. Limocello is tart and a tad bit sweet, making it the perfect palette cleanser after a delicious meal.

Emily Noel


In true Italian fashion, we slowed the pace at which we ate, making sure to savor each course. After we finished eating, we were in no rush to clean up or head to the next course. One takeaway from my time in Italy is how Italians enjoy each other’s company when they gather together. They are in no rush to pay for the meal and head to the next destination. Italians live in the moment and savor the time they spend with their loved ones. Of course, the food helps create the feeling of Italian authenticity, but the Italian way of life is so much more than just the food. Even though we weren’t able to go on our Italian getaway this year, I was still able to show my family what it’s like to live as an Italian for a night. If you’re feeling stuck at home, opt for an Italian night-in and prepare a six course meal for your family.