Ahh, summer. Nothing beats dinner on the patio on a balmy summer evening. But there are a few things you need to know! Here are some helpful hints, tips, hacks and even a couple meal plans to make your backyard dinner extra special.

TIP #1 Take It Easy

Dining outside is all about letting the atmosphere set the tone for the evening, so keep your recipes simple (and you’ll be able to relax and enjoy yourself more, too). Dining al fresco usually means that there’s lots of fresh produce in season. Therefore, showcase it by preparing it simply. Grilled corn on the cob with butter, crisp asparagus with sea salt, and a colorful, flavorful caprese salad come to mind.

TIP #2 Make It Sustainable

Yes, it is a little more work, but glass plates, cloth napkins and heavier glasses are much better for the environment than one-use picnic supplies. Plus, everyone hates how those cheap paper plates go limp immediately after dishing up. This tip is actually a two-for-one deal. Since you’re not using paper plates, paper napkins and disposable cups, congrats! You’ve wind-proofed your outdoor meal, too!

TIP #3 Light It Up

If you plan to dine al fresco during the evening, some nice lighting will be needed. There are lots of ways to set the mood – candles, lanterns and string lights come to mind. Get creative! Check out Pinterest boards for patio lighting and have fun. If you can keep the scent of the candle or torches away from the table, citronella does double duty of repelling mosquitoes and adding light. Which brings us to our next tip…

TIP #4 Be Gone, Bugs!

It’s just that time of year! Swatting mosquitoes and batting flies away from food is a part of summer life, but there are ways you can make it easier on you and your guests. One of the most important things you can do to your backyard (and this stands whether you’re dining al fresco or not) is to ensure there is never any standing water anywhere in the yard. This is where mosquitoes and other bugs breed. So keep the kiddie pool empty, and sprinklers or rainwater shouldn’t cause any puddles to collect. Even the smallest amount of standing water, like inside the saucer of a flower pot, is enough water for mosquitoes to breed. And as far as flies go, there are many food-safe methods for repelling flies using common produce like citrus, cucumbers (did you know flies hate the smell of cucumbers?) and fragrant herbs.

Meal Plan Ideas

Idea #1: (For the big appetites) Grilled New York Strip with garlic herb butter, Corn off the Cob, Fingerling Potatoes, and an amazing Chocolate Mousse for dessert.

Idea #2: (Lighter fare) Nonna’s Chicken Cutlets, a flavorful Caprese Salad, and Tiramisu (relax – it’s an easy one, only takes 10 minutes!)

Idea #3: (For the vegans) Spicy Grilled Cauliflower Steaks, Kale Salad with Roasted Garlic Tahini, Coconut Bliss ice cream cones!

Fun Fact! Did you know?

The Italian phrase al fresco actually translates to “in the cool air”. However, it’s not commonly used by Italians when they’re talking about dining outside. Usually they use the phrases fuori “outside”, or all’aperto “in the open air”.