At his restaurant Scopa, in Healdsburg in the California wine country, Chef Ari Rosen serves a rustic yet refined menu of “Grandmother Italian” cuisine to an enthusiastic crowd. Here, he shares a menu of his soul-satisfying fare: generous starters to sustain guests while they gather outside with a glass of wine, followed by a hearty braise and fresh pasta. It’s the perfect meal to share in a vineyard—or your own backyard.
Begin the meal with beautiful appetizers meant to pass and share. Grilled figs wrapped in prosciutto create a sweet-savory balance we love, while two kinds of flatbreads — zucchini blossom and merguez sausage — make a more substantial snack.
When you’re ready to sit down to dinner, Ari’s fresh salads will be welcome starters. Heirloom tomatoes, cucumbers and celery shine in this simple dish, and grilled romaine is smoky and lively with a garlicky dressing. Fresh pappardelle with sausage, fennel and ricotta is silky and satisfying; serve it with a rustic braised pork shoulder over polenta. A side of sweet, tender sauteed broccolini is the best accompaniment.
- 1 to 2 days ahead: Bake the cookies. Make the flatbread dough, let rise and refrigerate; bring to room temperature before using. Braise the pork shoulder, let cool, and refrigerate overnight. Make the pasta and refrigerate.
- Day of: Assemble the figs and prosciutto. Make the merguez. Roll out the pasta.
- Just before serving: Grill the figs. Assemble and bake the flatbreads. Grill and finish the salads. Make the polenta and reheat the pork. Saute the broccolini. Cook and finish the pasta. Marinate the peaches.
During the wine hour before the meal, slice flatbreads on rustic boards for easy, casual serving, and arrange the figs on a classic white platter. Create a station on a wooden table (or a wine barrel!) with wine glasses, tumblers and open bottles so guests can help themselves.
At the table, Ari prefers serving dishes family style for a communal feeling. Place boards with olives, bread and salt in the middle of the table for passing and sharing. Serve dishes on white dinnerware and serveware to let the vibrant colors of the ingredients shine.
To maximize space, set up a buffet table nearby where you can stack plates and bowls and keep any platters of dishes that aren’t immediately being served. Fill a metal bucket with ice for chilling white wines and glass bottles filled with water.
An outdoor dinner calls for festive, romantic lighting. String bulb lights to create atmosphere and bring your natural backdrop to life.
Complement the brightly colored food with whimsical, understated, delicate floral arrangements. Floral designer Carlisle Degischer used mostly edible elements in these arrangements: cardoons, variegated sage, rosemary and broom corn. Place a single, large, dramatic arrangement on the buffet table, and line the length of the dining table with smaller ones. We love the rustic, unfinished look of the metal vases she used.