ASK THE EXPERT: Nancy Brussat, Convito Cafe & Market
A guide to a quick and easy gathering, especially in the holiday season
By Nancy Brussat
Welcoming friends and family into my home is one of my favorite holiday activities. It is such a festive time of the year. But it is also a busy time of the year for everyone. So I have figured out how to entertain simply. Whether you have decorated a lot or very little, candlelight goes a long way in setting a festive mood. Rather than a full bar, just offer wine and beer. And with food, lately I have embraced an antipasti theme. That only requires arranging some salami, prosciutto and cheeses on a platter accompanied by bowls of your favorite marinated vegetables or spreads – like olives, peppers and artichokes and tapenade. And that is really simple – just opening a few jars. Include some crackers and breadsticks and voila! You have the ingredients for a perfect holiday gathering – big or small. This can be a large platter, or small. People can even make their own sandwiches on the bread with salami or prosciutto with a little tapenade and brie, and voila! Your guests can either snack or fill-up!
IDEAS for YOUR LIST TO BUY/GATHER
- Cutting boards, platters, bowls (arranged as photographed)
- Red Wine : Like an every day Sangiovese (Banfi col di Sasso) or Montepulciano (La Masciarelli) from Italy
- White Wine: New Zealand Saugvignon Blanc (Root 1 Organic) or Frascati (Fontada Candida)
- Beer (maybe a lager like Moretti and an IPA like Revolution Anti Hero to please both palates)
- Sliced salami (you can buy it in a pack already sliced, or have the deli slice it fresh)
- Prosciutto (ditto)
- Fontinella cheese in cubes
- A wedge of Brie (just put out with a knife)
- Jar of chutney (like Old Farmhouse Chutney from Stonewall Kitchens)
- Jar of marinated artichokes
- Olives (mixed and pitted are a good option, or some provencal)
- Marinated roasted peppers, sliced
- Fig almond cake from Spain, sliced or left on the plate for people to cut themselves
- Slices of crunchy french baguette
- Crackers (we love the Panzanella mini croccantini)
- Tapenade to spread (black olive, or sun dried tomato is a great option)
- Breadsticks (like Colleen’s homemade artisanal cheese breadsticks that come in a variety of flavors)
For more details on our menus and offerings of Convito visit our website www.convitocafeandmarket.com
For more details regarding please contact Candace Barocci Warner at email@example.com
For details on Founder and Partner, Nancy Brussat’s blog on the beginnings of Convito visit her blog at https://nancybrussat.wordpress.com
Founder/Proprietor, Convito Café & Market
Nancy Brussat is the founder and moving force behind Convito Café & Market which opened its first location under the name of Convito Italiano in 1980 in Wilmette. A long time interest in Italian food blossomed during a three-year residency in England. Brussat made frequent trips to Italy, becoming increasingly enchanted by the regional wines, cuisine and character of the country.
When Brussat moved back to America in 1980, she decided to open Convito Italiano, a shop which would be part grocery, part pasta and sauces, part education center, part wine center, and part deli.
By 1982, the shop was too small to contain all of Brussat’s ideas, so she moved Convito to larger quarters in Wilmette’s Plaza del Lago, with three times the space and three new features; hot foods, an on-the-premise Italian bakery, and a 28 seat Italian cafe serving lunch and early dinner.
In October of 1984, a second Convito location opened in the Chestnut Galleria on Chicago’s near north side: a post-modern, Euro-style shop on two levels, that included a 62 seat white linen tablecloth restaurant and a 35 seat wine bar. The new location was larger (10,000 square feet) and grander than the Wilmette store, but was every bit as dedicated to presenting fresh, authentic dishes in the great Italian regional tradition. The Chestnut location has been closed (Spring 1994). A fire occurred in the kitchen in November of 1993 making it difficult to continue operation.
In 1992, Brussat opened a new, casual Riviera-style Bistro, Bêtise, in Plaza del Lago. It featured fresh and unpretentious dishes transported from the Cote d’Azur and the lively Bistros of Paris to a warm, honey-colored art-filled suburban setting.
Barocci was chosen to serve on American Airlines’ Chef’s Conclave in 1989, a group of 10 chef’s from around the country who strive to improve and maintain the quality of dishes offered on first and business class. She is also an active Past President in Les Dames d’Escoffier, an international women’s food & wine organization.
She is also an active Past President in Les Dames d’Escoffier, an international women’s food & wine organization.