Giada Kicks Off the New York City Wine & Food Festival with Rooftop Italian Feast

Get the first look inside an Italian-focused bash that Giada hosted during the 2015 New York City Wine & Food Festival.
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With plenty of tangy tomato sauce at the ready, and tender meatballs and cheesy margherita pizzas on hand, the stage was set for the 2015 New York City Wine & Food Festival's opening night bash on Thursday: an Italian feast hosted by who else but Food Network's own queen of Italian cuisine, Giada De Laurentiis. Along with Giada, more than 30 chefs gathered high atop Manhattan's Pier 92 to serve the ultimate Sunday supper-style menu complete with Old-World favorites, from classic red-sauce gravy and pillowy gnocchi to succulent porchetta and even sweet-tooth-satisfying cannoli.

FN Dish caught up with Giada as she mingled with fans, and she told us that when it comes to Sunday supper at her house, it's a kid-friendly feast. "Usually it's Jade and I cooking, and then it depends on what friends or what family is available to come over," she said. And as for what's likely on the menu at her house? According to Giada, "Pasta is Jade's favorite." At Giada's station on Thursday night, however, there wasn't pasta but a pair of golden-brown arancini — one filled with artichoke and the other with lemony crab, both nestled in a bright tomato sauce.

Not just a sidekick to spaghetti, meatballs made their way into the spotlight at several chefs' booths, including that of Donatella Arpaia, a longtime judge on Iron Chef America. Her fan-favorite meatballs earned her the crown at a former festival event, Meatball Madness, and on Thursday night she brought back the winning dish. "It's my mother's and grandmother's recipes, from [being] passed down," she told us. While Donatella couldn't share the secret recipe for the all-veal meatballs, she told us one key ingredient: "a lot of love."

Perhaps the largest showing of the night was in the way of pizza, from prosciutto-topped crusts and carbonara-inspired pies to classically simple sauce-and-cheese combinations. One such tried-and-true approach caught our eye: the Regina Margherita from San Matteo, featuring a chewy crust and just-sweet-enough sauce.

Casa Nonna proved that not all gnocchi are made with standard potatoes, as the restaurant showcased its ricotta-laced dumplings, at once light and fluffy but hefty enough to hold together.

The line to belly up to New York City's Charlie Bird's station may have been long, but it was worth the extra few minutes. Fans were rewarded with not only a satisfying sandwich of salty, savory porchetta but also an impromptu show, as staffers sliced the roasted suckling pig right on the spot.

Just as an Italian nonna would do, the chefs too offered their share of after-dinner sweet treats to tempt partygoers. Ferrara Bakery and Cafe, a century-old standby in downtown Manhattan, brought what seemed like its entire pastry case of desserts, including two-bite cannoli (pictured above), while Fresco by Scotto Restaurant delivered the Italian-style doughnuts in the form of cinnamon-scented bomboloni, each drizzled with gooey caramel.

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

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