I have a deep and abiding fondness for food from the Mediterranean, whether the origin is southern France, Spain, Greece, Morocco, or Italy. These meals tend to be light and are perfect for al fresco dining on the patio. This Italian Menu for Two is a complete meal from the antipasti to the dolce (dessert) and is a great choice for al fresca dining. It's perfect for two people, but can easily be doubled or tripled if you're expecting guests. You might want to pick up a loaf of focaccia at the bakery to go along with this meal. And I'd recommend a Pinot Grigio to co with it.
Carpaccio is an Italian version of Beef Tartar. Made of raw beef and dressed with lemony mayonnaise, it was created in Harry's Bar in Venice. My version uses a balsamic vinaigrette instead of mayonnaise and is a flavorful but light first course. If the raw beef concerns you, then quickly brown the steak on all sides over high heat before proceeding. It won’t be as good but it will eliminate any possible contamination.
Pasta is traditionally the first course (primo) at an Italian meal (they don't count the antipasti). This is light enough - and cool enough - to make a great first course, but it could also be substituted for the Carpaccio above. Serve on a bed of greens, in that case.
The second course in an Italian meal is often some sort of meat. Saltimbocca is an Italian word meaning "jump in the mouth" and is the name of a Roman dish classically made with veal, prosciutto, and sage. It's also sometimes made with chicken or pork and cheese is a frequent addition. I've had it a few times made with either chicken or veal and although it was good, I can't say it jumped in my mouth. So I set out to create my own version. This recipe does a little skip, hop, [i]and[/i] jump with each bite.
When I was a kid my favorite ice cream was coffee (aside from orange or lime sherbet) and I'm still fond of it. So one of the first things I made after buying an ice cream maker was coffee. It took me a couple of tries to figure out the right ingredient balance: how much cream and what kind, how much coffee, fresh coffee or powdered, and how much sugar. But with this recipe I think I've got it - and if it doesn't work for you, feel free to tweak it.