The Dining Dish blog is Dara Bunjon's take on anything food, both national and in her hometown of Baltimore. Warning: this food blog can be harmful to your waistline.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Communal dining - love it or hate it?

How social are you when it comes to dining? Do you tend to eat out with other friends or keep it a solo or a two top? I have been a huge fan of communal dining for over 20 years and for me the more the merrier.

My first experience

My first experience was in Florence, Italy, when my friend and I were whisked to a communal table at Il Latini. We met and shared wine and food with a couple from Dallas, Texas, an American student studying in Florence and an Italian couple. By the end of the meal we had shared laughs, stories and great food with more than our share of wine. (I have some recollection of bouncing off the building walls walking back to our hotel -don't tell anyone.) What a wonderful way to dine.

As a business traveler, I always seek out restaurants with communal tables if I am alone. I ate at New York City's Asia de Cuba and met a fascinating advertising vice president from Paris and a California prosecutor who recently returned from taking a year off and traveling around the world with his wife. Fabulous dinner conversation!!!!!

Local communal dining opportunities

There are a couple restaurants in town with communal tables one being Pazo though I can’t think of the others (maybe you can refresh our memories).

Sotto Sopra’s Italian Language and Culture Dinner club is one of those events that I enjoy. Not only is the dining communal but it is family-style service, reminiscent of family holidays where you pass platters and bowls of delicious food. I’ve been to one and I’m going back on Monday, February 23rd . It is a dinner for people who love all things Italian. If you speak a little or a lot of Italian it is fun to practice your skills (though not a prerequisite to attend to the dinner). The guests share their passion for all things Italian: the food, the wines, cities they visited, the language, art…anything Italian-even their mother’s meatball recipe. From time-to-time they have guest host who lend their Italian expertise.

Food is always abundant (abundanza) - Here is a look at a couple dishes being served that evening - chef will add dishes as to what looks good from the market and purveyors that day.

Wild Mushrooms with Soft Polenta
Broccoli Rabe with Beans and Sausage
Baked Whole Red Snapper with Olives and Capers
Gianduia Pot de Creme

Food and wine dinners have that same camaraderie, a shared table with other diners with a passion for food and wine. There are many restaurants that offer events where dining is communal. Let me direct you to which is national and international in its listings. If you are traveling you can become privy to these special events. There are many events posted for Baltimore – do check it out. The link is always on the side column of my post.

Italian Language & Culture Dinner
Monday, February 23, 2009 ~ 7 p.m.
Reservations required
$55 per person (all inclusive -food, wine, tax and gratuity)
Sotto Sopra Italian Restaurant
405 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Check out the event HERE

communal table photo is courtesy of Asia de Cuba in New York City

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