How to Re-Create The Communal Table Experience

Photo Courtesy: San Francisco Chronicle

In Italy-and increasingly in other parts of the world–it is common to enter an eaterie and be seated at a long communal dining table. You know no one, and they don’t know you, but in the course of the eating experience you find yourself making delicious small talk with new acquantances, perhaps trying out each other’s wine choice, discussing their menu selections and in some cases even exchanging business cards after the final espresso, with the promise of future connections. My most recent experience at the communal tavola all’ italiana was in the beautiful city of Firenze. I was alone in my quest for a great bistecca, but by the end of my meal, I was even more satisfied with the feeling of having just broken bread with potential new  friends.

My “Lemons into Limoncello”  living-well philosophy centers around two main concepts: Stengthening your inner resilience for life’s unexpected challenges , and filling in the between times with mandatory, life-affirming joy. The communal table is one pocket of joy that truly makes life worth living. Many restaurants in the US are now offering communal dining experiences, but I’d like to encourage you to create your own. Here is how.

Choose a public park or facility that has outdoor picnic areas. You may have to reserve them in advance. Send out impromptu invitations to at least 10-15 people whom you know, and make two requests:

1. Bring a potluck covered dish (or beverage, paper products, etc) , and

2) Bring a friend or family member.

Put the picnic tables together or bring portable chairs that you can set together, and make sure everyone is seated next to at least one person they don’t know.  By the end of the event, you will have increased your social network, staved off some of that loneliness that many are prone to from time to time, and increased self-confidence, in your ability to socialize by making new acquaintences.

Eventually you can also hold Communal Table Event Themes–such as all single (and all bring a friend), or all Mets Fans, or an Italian Recipe Exchange Table. The possibilities are endless, as will be the happy feeling in your heart.

Please don’t let the summer go by without holding one of these fun community dining experiences. Be the organizer of joy, Italian-style!

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