Fun Italian Picnic Foods

Who wants to go on an Italian picnic? I do! What could be better than enjoying the fresh air, spending time with family or friends, and eating delicious Italian food all at the same time?

Italian picnic foods

Whether you’re planning a private picnic or joining a group outing, if you want to make it Italian style, you’ve come to the right place. I’m giving you everything you need from Italian picnic food ideas to planning tips, and much more.

Andiamo!

Italian Picnic Foods

Let’s start with the fun part, choosing which Italian foods you want to bring to the picnic. I love Italian food, but what I don’t love is when I pick the wrong types of food for the occasion. Here are some suggestions that will help you know what to bring.

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Italian Picnic Foods for a Blanket-style Picnic

italian picnic food ideas

When choosing to have your picnic where it’s a more personal Italian picnic basket style setting, you’ll want foods that are easy to handle, pass around, and won’t easily fall apart or make a mess.

Unlike eating at a picnic table, eating on the ground can be prone to accidental spills and plates and cups being knocked over just by moving around.

Here are some Italian picnic food ideas that are perfect for this type of picnic setting. If I have specific recipe instructions, I’ll provide a link.

Italian Picnic Sandwich

Italian cold cut sandwich

Also known as an Italian sub sandwich, these can be assembled in fresh Italian rolls in advance and wrapped in plastic wrap to be kept fresh.

The essentials are multiple Italian sliced meats and sliced provolone or other Italian cheese, but provolone is the most common.

Italian meats can include the following which should be readily available at your local grocery deli.

  • salami
  • pepperoni
  • mortadella
  • capocollo
  • bresaola
  • soppresseta

For the dressing use an olive oil and red wine vinegar. You can add a small dash of Italian herbs if you’d like, however I prefer mine simple.

Do not drizzle the dressing on until you are at the picnic. I suggest bringing small mason jars already filled with the olive oil and vinegar, either premixed or individually.

Optional ingredients

  • sliced tomatoes
  • fresh lettuce
  • sliced pepperoncini
  • thinly sliced red onion

Crusty Ciabatta Bread Sandwiches

Purchase a fresh crusty ciabatta or Italian bread from a bakery.  Slice the top third of the loaf off and set aside.  Remove some of the bread from the center to make room for the fillings.  Spread pesto or aioli over all cut surfaces of the loaf.

Vegetarian sandwiches are equally delicious with extra cheese in place of the meat.  After the meat is placed in the loaf, stack dry cheeses such as mozzarella cheese, provolone or even a thinly shaved pecorino.

The cheeses and meats can be followed with sweet or pickled roasted red pimento peppers, sliced olives, mesclun and thickly sliced ripe tomatoes.

Fried Chicken Cutlets

fried chicken cutlets for an italian picnic
Let the cutlets sit on some paper towels to absorb any excess oil.

These can be fried ahead and then served on some nice artisan bread that can be used for a sandwich. Bring along some slices of provolone to serve as well.

I have a recipe for pan frying Italian chicken cutlets vs deep frying.

Once the cutlets are fully cooled, wrap them in plastic wrap or store in an air tight container. Keep them in the fridge.

Caprese Salad

salad for italian picnic

This type of salad is very Italian and consists of fresh mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, and fresh basil. An easy alternative is to make a cherry tomato caprese salad.

Prepare this salad the day before, just the slices of cheese and tomatoes. Add the olive oil and basil the day of. Pack the salad in a container with a very tight lid so it doesn’t spill. Use a slotted spoon so the marinade doesn’t spill when served.

Italian Picnic Bread

No Italian picnic would be complete without some Italian bread. But if you can’t find Italian bread, choose any type of baguette that can be served with a slice of fresh Parmesan or Romano.

Block of Italian Cheese

hard block of cheese

Italians love their hard cheeses. We’ll just grab a block of hard cheese and slice some off and eat it with some fresh bread. It’s simple and yet so delicious.

Refreshing Picnic Foods

Italians often have fruit after a meal. I remember this vividly from my time spent in Italy visiting relatives. For an Italian picnic, I’d personally recommend any of the following.

  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Figs
  • Mixed Olives (this isn’t a fruit but taste great on a picnic!)

For more recipes, make sure to request a copy of my Italian Picnic Planner’s Guide.

Tips for your blanket-style picnic experience

To enjoy all this amazing food on your Italian picnic, there are some practical tips I’d like to offer you. I include even more in my guide which you can download here.

tumblers to prevent drinks from spilling
  • Use tumblers or cups with lids. This will help limit the amount of spillage should anything get accidentally knocked over.
  • Bring your own trash bags. This will help with clean up!
  • Definitely bring plenty of objects to keep the blanket secure from blowing around, as the blanket will knock over any light objects laying on it.

Italian Picnic Foods for Large Picnics

recipes for italian picnics

If you’re planning for, or attending a group picnic and Italian food is where you want the focus, then I’ve got some more Italian picnic ideas for you.

Italian pasta bakes. Although I recommend using mostly cold Italian picnic food, bakes are excellent for any type of get-together because they are easy to prepare, cook, and serve.

I’ve never been to a get-together where no one took some baked pasta on their plate! Even when a baked pasta isn’t hot, it still tastes great.

Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Skewers. Talk about easy! These skewers include balls of mozzarella, grape tomatoes and fresh basil – just like a caprese salad.

They are perfect for giving out to everyone with no cross contamination from unclean hands! Everyone just picks up their own skewer and puts it on their plate. No extra serving utensils are needed except a large plate or basket to keep the skewers in for everyone.

Snack Foods. Finger foods are excellent such as fruit, nuts, and vegetables and make some of the best Italian picnic food options for guests.

Antipasto. Antipasto platters come in handy for so many occasions, and Italian picnics are no exception. These can serve two purposes. One, for an antipasto experience, and second, if you load it up with sliced meats such as salami, pepperoni, mortadella, etc., and have some Italian rolls next to the platter, people can make their own sandwiches.

Include easy to pour jars with olive oil and vinegar off to the side so people can use them if they wish.

Cold pasta salads. Pasta salads can be warm or cold, but in this case a cold pasta salad would be perfect. I recommend either my angel hair pasta salad or my Italian tortellini pasta salad recipes. These are easy to eat and only require plastic forks, no knives. Since these both have cheese in the dish itself, there’s no need to add extra cheese on top.

Italian Chickpea Salad. We have this at nearly every family get-together in the summer because it’s not only incredibly delicious, but this Italian chickpea salad is super refreshing.

Drinks

drinks for Italian picnic

Let’s talk for a minute about what drinks are appropriate. For an Italian feel to the picnic, I recommend using sparkling water, or Perrier as this is what Italians enjoy drinking.

A light, bubbly wine cooler is a refreshing choice to go with Italian sandwiches.  If alcohol is not permitted, a spritzer from white grape juice and seltzer is also thirst quenching. 

If it’s appropriate, you can also bring some bottles of wine. Italians drink wine with their lunches, but they do so in small amounts. So, bring some small cups to your picnic to keep the wine portions reasonable.

Choosing Safe Italian Picnic Foods

According to the FDA, foods that contain dairy and mayonnaise should only be left out for no more than two hours to prevent the growth of bacteria. If the weather is over 90F then it changes from two hours to one hour!

So, it’s important to choose foods that can be left out safely. But in this case, we’re using meats, and cheeses. Therefore, you need to enlist the help of a good cooler that can store your prepared foods until right before serving.

As it nears the two-hour mark, if anything is still left out, pack it up and put it back in the storage cooler. Let people know if they want anymore, to just grab it from the cooler. 

I recommend packing the cooler with some ice to make sure that it’s at a low enough temperature to keep the food fresh and safe.

Italian Music Really Sets the Picnic Mood

Don’t forget the music for a truly Italian themed picnic, especially for a nice romantic outing. There are lots of Italian artists on Amazon, but some of my favorite classics are:

Don’t forget to bring some Bluetooth speakers along and a charger for your phone!

Tips for Planning an Italian Picnic

Now that we’ve got the food prep down, it’s important to consider a few other tips to help make the picnic a success.

  1. Bring along some entertainment games. Avoid games with easy to lose parts. But cards, puzzles and Frisbees are just a few ideas.
  2. Always check the weather and have a backup location if the date is not movable. If it looks like it’s going to rain, then having a backup location where there is a covered picnic area can save the day.
  3. Make sure to bring plenty of napkins and towels.  If you prefer disposables, foil wrapped wet napkins are very efficient for washing hands when not near running water.  Cloth napkins and damp washcloths in resealable bags are good for cleaning up without creating garbage.
  4. Heavy duty plastic ware is only marginally more expensive than flimsy plastic and worth the extra expense.  Lightweight metal utensils are sturdier and are not substantially heavier.
  5. Ideally, food should be prepared in advance so that it can be grilled or eaten directly out of the cooler with minimal work required on site.  Produce is easily packaged while cubed, cheese is generally available pre-sliced and meat should be cut into individual portions for ease of handling.
  6. Don’t forget the bug repellent. To avoid the use of sprays near the food, bring along some citronella or other scents that repel mosquitos and other pests.

If you’ve found this post helpful, there are a number of other picnic foods I don’t have room to talk about. You can get my complete Italian Picnic Guide which gives you more food ideas, including 5 Italian, written out recipes, for you to use!

Let me know your own tips and suggestions for Italian picnic food. I’d love to hear your creative thoughts and your own experiences in the comments below!

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Fun Italian Picnic Foods

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