The 9 Best Bites from Giada's Ultimate Italian Dinner at the New York City Wine & Food Festival

Go inside Giada's Italian-themed event and check out some of the best bites from the first night of the 2016 New York City Wine & Food Festival.
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If the Italian feasts you know and love are reminiscent of lively parties full of friends, a bounty of pasta and pizza, and a seemingly never-ending flow of wine, you'll be happy to know that the Italian Table that Giada De Laurentiis hosted on Thursday night was just like that — only her bash featured hundreds of guests and dozens of dishes. (They needed more than one table.)

Giada kicked off the ninth-annual New York City Wine & Food Festival in true big-city fashion, bringing together chefs and restaurateurs for the ultimate rooftop soiree at Pier 92, located high atop Manhattan's Midtown. While guests enjoyed such savory and sweet bites as squid-laced pasta, chicken Parm-meatball combos and creamy panna cotta, Giada mingled with fans and took pictures with partygoers while wood-burning ovens blazed in the background.

Instead of delivering the usual red-sauce staples, chefs dished out inventive, surprising dishes, including a muffuletta sandwich, a super-spicy pizza and a seasonal panna cotta dessert. Check out 10 top bites of the night.

Muffuletta from Giada Vegas: Loaded with several kinds of sliced meat, plus provolone cheese, peppers and briny olives, this beauty, presented by Giada's Las Vegas restaurant, was piled so high that I needed two hands to eat it.

Chicken Parm Meatball from Quality Italian: I first met this comfort-food hybrid at an event at the 2015 South Beach Wine & Food Festival, and I was downright thrilled to see it made its way to New York. Just like it did in Florida, the spicy honey made the dish last night, as the sweet heat was a welcome, craveable combo with the chicken.

The St. Louie!!!!! from Speedy Romeo: The line to try this spicy pie from Speedy Romeo was long — so long that I almost didn't wait in it. But thank goodness I did. With a subtly sweet tomato sauce, crumbled sausage, two kinds of cheeses and pickled chiles, this deeply savory pizza deserves all five of the exclamation points in its name.

Covina Meatballs from Covina: The three-meat blend in these two-bite meatballs created a moist, flavorful finished product. But what impressed me most was the tomato sauce — it tasted just like my grandma's.

Mascarpone Panna Cotta from L'Apicio: Hello, fall. This seasonal dessert featured a rich but light creamy base with visible flecks of vanilla in it. Perhaps best of all, though, were the caramel-laced apples — served still warm — on top. I ate two of these (and contemplated a third).

Grilled Cheese from Polpettina: This isn't your everyday sandwich stuffed with American cheese. The Muenster was gooey and flavorful, while the capicola offered a very important saltiness.

Porcini Lasagnette from Union: Every bit as hearty and satisfying as a traditional lasagna, this deconstructed version starred thin strands of curly-edged noodles and meaty pieces of mushrooms.

Cavatelli Pasta from Acme: Squid was a major player in tonight's menu with multiple eateries dishing out either that or octopus, and this one was a favorite. The cavatelli pasta — tiny, ridged pieces of rolled dough — were appropriately al dente.

Pastacinis from Cheech A' Cini's Italian Grill: If you like macaroni and cheese and you like risotto balls, you would have liked this mash-up bite featuring cheesy pasta stuffed inside a fried ball. If it sounds richly decadent, that's because it was. Plus, there was vodka sauce on top.

Keep coming back to FN Dish all weekend long for more insider coverage of the 2016 New York City Wine & Food Festival.

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