The festive season is drawing ever closer, and much like most of us savour the staples of Christmas with open arms, in Italian culture, Christmas is a magical time in its own unique way. Twinkling lights, bustling markets, and joyous celebrations bring warmth and cheer during the chillier winter months.
Italian Christmas traditions are deeply rooted in culinary excellence. So whether you’re well-versed in experiencing Christmas in Italy, or whether it’s your first time, you are about to experience some truly awe-inspiring and tasty dishes that make that traditional Italian Christmas all the more special. If you’re an Italian food enthusiast wanting to create something a little more authentic this year, then look no further.
As an Italian speciality deli and restaurant with spots in Weybridge and East Sheen, Valentina wants to help you experience the flavours, traditions, and convivial spirit of an Italian Christmas right here in the UK. Follow this short guide to experience an authentic festive period, Italian style!
Italian Christmas Festivities
Indulge in Classic Italian Holiday Treats
Panettone - This sweet yeast bread studded with raisins and candied citrus peel is a symbol of the holidays in Italy.
At Valentina Deli & Kitchen, our secret family sourdough recipe produces a panettone that’s less heavy on the stomach than traditional versions. With over 100 varieties, from classic to exotic flavours, our delis overflow with these festive cakes during the Christmas season. Italians even have a playful tradition of “regifting” panettones by marking their initials on the bottom!
You can experience these authentic Italian pastries in an abundance of flavours at both our Weybridge and East Sheen Italian delis.
Pandoro - Meaning “golden bread,” this star-shaped brioche-style cake hails from the provincial capital of Verona. It's a lighter egg-based bread without fruits or peel, scented with vanilla, offering a milder flavour. Cut the pandoro into thin slices from top to bottom and enjoy its soft sweetness.
Panforte - This chewy speciality fruit cake contains nuts, spices, and dried fruit, offering a delicious sweet treat to cleanse those palates. It’s the perfect finale to a holiday feast, served with vin santo or espresso. Both our Italian delis in Weybridge and East Sheen will stock an array of panforte cakes for your tasting pleasure come the holiday season.
Italian Cheeses & Cured Meats
An Italian-style antipasto overflowing with cheeses, salumi, and other delicacies makes a stunning edible centrepiece for any holiday gathering.
With over 70 varieties of cheese and 60 cured meats, our shops offer endless antipasti options to create a show-stopping meat and cheese board that’s sure to wow your guests.
Pair bold pecorinos, nutty Parmigiano Reggiano, and buttery taleggios with prosciuttos, mortadellas, salamis and more. As a family-run Italian deli and restaurant, we know all the right cheese and meat combos to make your platter perfect this Christmas.
A Fish-Based Christmas Eve Feast
Christmas Eve - La Vigilia di Natale - in Italy centres around a meatless meal spotlighting the bounty of the sea. According to an old Catholic tradition, the Italian La Vigilia meal is meant to purify the body ahead of the religious celebration.
Known as the “Feast of the Seven Fishes,” this tradition honours Catholic ritual while showcasing some of Italy’s superb seafood. Baccalà (salted codfish), tuna, prawns, clams, calamari, sardines, mussels, eel, and anchovies often make an appearance. It’s common to see potatoes and a nutritious Italian risotto served alongside these seafood staples on Christmas Eve.
Recreate this tradition by crafting your own spread of Italian seafood dishes, or stop by either of our authentic Italian delis to pick up ready-to-eat seafood appetisers and mains. We source sustainably caught Italian fish and shellfish to craft authentic antipasti di mare, fish soups, and more.
Natale - an Italian Christmas Lunch to Remember
Christmas Day in Italy tends to centre around an early afternoon lunch which is where you can expect some of the most exquisite recipes to be served here.
You’ll often see the antipasti platters served as starters alongside pasta al forno and frittata. The main course will consist of a traditional Christmas roast consisting of pork, beef or lamb, with an array of vegetables like carrots, parsnips, potatoes and green beans.
An Italian Christmas Day pudding will include a mixture of both panettone and pandoro or even a spiced nut pastry called mostaccioli.
Ring in the New Year with Cotechino and Lentils
Italians welcome the new year by feasting on cotechino con lenticchie, a meat-based dish that is often said to bring good fortune.
Cotechino consists of savoury pork sausage with a distinctive spice mix containing nutmeg and other warm flavours. Lentils, which resemble coins, represent prosperity for the coming year. Enjoy this lucky pairing with crisp green salads, buttery mashed potatoes, or roasted veggies left over from your big Natale meal.
At Valentina Deli & Kitchen, both of our shops sell high-quality cotechino and lentils so you can recreate this tradition at home. Just cook the lentils, slice and simmer the cotechino, and prepare for a fortunate new year.
Italian Wines for Holiday Sipping
No Italian feast is complete without the perfect wine pairing. Our in-house wine expert Amanda Baxter recommends these bottles to complement holiday menus:
Lambrusco - Pop a bottle of this bubbly red and enjoy its juicy berry flavours with antipasti or chocolate panettone. Look for dry, premium Lambrusco rather than sweet versions.
Barolo - The king of Piedmont reds, this powerful wine stands up beautifully to rich, aromatic and meat-based dishes - swirl notes of rose petals, tar, and black cherry.
Prosecco - This crisp, effervescent white sparks joy as an aperitif with passed appetisers or between courses. Its zesty citrus and stone fruit notes pair nicely with seafood, making it a superb pairing with La Vigilia.
Vin Santo - Sip this meditative Tuscan dessert wine with nutty, spice-filled treats like panforte and biscotti. Its nutty dried fruit flavours and lingering finish end a meal perfectly.
Spice Up Your Holidays the Italian Way
Bring the warmth, comfort, and dolce vita atmosphere of an Italian Christmas into your home this holiday season.
We expect the Christmas period to be busy in both of our Italian restaurants, and there is no better time to indulge in an authentic Italian dinner in style. Al fresco dining and a plethora of delicious wines and cocktails perfectly complement a Christmas party with your work team or to celebrate the start of the festivities with your friends and loved ones. At Valentina Deli & Kitchen, we offer a true taste of Italy regardless of who you’re with.
Hurry though - tables are going to be reserved soon - so book now to avoid disappointment!