How to Host a Fancy-ish Dinner Party, Without the Stress

A dinner party doesn’t have to come with a long to-do list.


After spending so much time in loungewear and sneakers, it seems like more people than ever are seeking to add a bit of elegance to their gatherings this season. However, “elegant” usually translates to “a lot of work” — and in the midst of the holiday season, adding even more stress is never ideal. A dinner party doesn’t have to have to come with a lengthy to-do list to feel high-end, though — thanks to a few creative tips and artisan-crafted, convenient Hearth and Fire pizzas. Here’s how to pull off one of these evenings, without overextending yourself.

Create a vegetarian menu

The Mushroom pizza + hearty grain salad + shiraz
Instead of carefully timing a complicated cut of meat, or spending hours brining, roasting, and basting, make your dinner party plant-based. A vegetarian meal can still feel hearty and fancy enough for a hosted dinner, even if you’re catering to a group of omnivores. The portobello, shiitake, and cremini mushrooms atop Hearth and Fire’s mushroom pie will lend a ton of umami to the meal, and when paired with a hearty grain salad with roasted autumn vegetables (think farro and butternut squash, fennel, and brussel sprouts), will leave everyone feeling pleasantly satiated, not stuffed. (Plus, you can make the components of the salad the day before, just store them separately.) Pair both with a bottle of full-bodied, earthy, and slightly spicy shiraz to enhance the cozy vibes.

Channel your favorite upscale pizzeria

The Margherita pizza + penne arrabiata + Negroni sbagliato
Fancier than a slice joint, but still approachable enough for an impromptu Thursday night dinner, a sophisticated pizzeria is the perfect middle ground to channel for a stress-free, fancy-ish dinner party. Here, the pies are delicious, the cocktail list is curated, and the side dishes are refined — yet everything is simple enough to pull off for a small crowd. Pair a margherita pizza made with fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomato sauce with a batch of slightly spicy penne arrabiata (thanks to the kick of red pepper flakes with fennel and garlic) for a meal that feels restaurant-quality, without the hassle. Then, don’t forget to pour another Italian classic: Negronis. (A Negroni sbagliato, preferably, because nothing says “fancy” like prosecco.)

Elevate a “casual” but classic dinner option

The Pepperoni pizza + kale Caesar Salad + honey Old Fashioned
Classics are classics for a reason and building a dinner party menu around tried-and-true favorites is not only crowd-pleasing, but convenient. For the main, lean into an iconic pepperoni pie, but make sure the pepperoni is spicy (like something you would find on a charcuterie board) and that the crust has a visible char. On the side, elevate the standard pizza-joint Caesar salad by upgrading the greens for Tuscan kale, then make your own dressing. (You can easily do this with mayo, rather than egg whites, and sub in fish sauce if you don’t have anchovies.) To drink, lean into yet another classic: the Old Fashioned, but make it with honey, rather than simple syrup, to complement the pepperoni.

Mix up non-alcoholic drinks

The Bianca + verjus cocktails + roasted red pepper Caprese salad
Trying to anticipate what all your guests will feel like drinking is one of the most complicated parts of hosting a dinner party. Instead of playing bartender for the evening, keep the drinks simple by centering the night around sampling a non-alcoholic cocktail. Verjus, the pressed juice of unripened, unfermented grapes, is becoming a favorite in NA cocktails, thanks to the high wine-like acidity it provides. All that mouth-watering acidity will help cut through the Bianca pizza, with its combination of six (!) cheeses (mozzarella, fontina, sharp white Cheddar, goat, Asiago, and Parmesan white sauce). On the side, keep the appetizers light and pantry-friendly with a roasted red pepper Caprese salad: it uses jarred red peppers (which will likely be tastier at this time of year than out-of-season tomatoes) along with mozzarella, basil, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil.