Alfresco Dining: Setting the Table for Summer Fun

Ah, summer. Alfresco dining is what I look forward to. And that’s actually just a fancy way for saying, eating outside. It comes from the Italian language – “al fresco” literally translates to “in the fresh air”. Spring, summer or fall – it’s the perfect time to eat outdoors. (In some places, winter’s just fine, too.) And outdoors is the best place to eat on enchanted evenings, especially if you’re somewhere that you can get a glimpse of the night sky.

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Alfresco Table

We’ve found some whimsical tableware this year that will take your alfresco dining to a new level. But don’t forget the flowers and candles, too. Seat cushions in unique patterns or loud colors can create a certain look. And outdoor bulb lights are great, but don’t have so many that they obscure the night sky. And start the festivities just as the sun is starting to set, bathing the world in that golden light.

Tableware & Dinnerware for Alfresco Dining

You don’t have to just use melamine and acrylic. You can go ahead and use china and glass – unless it’s a kid’s party 🙂  Look for unusual, whimsical patterns and shapes. Shake it up – this is Alfresco – anything goes!

Al Fresco Dining Plate Set

Yvonne Williams’ Whale of a Time plate set is just made for Alfresco dining. From the “Monochrome Selection”, these gold-rimmed dishes really add a whimsical touch to your event.

Set of Monochrome Plates

In keeping with the monochrome theme – this set of four plates, also from Yvonne Williams, is so cute, especially the dog with the party hat. Right?

Alfesco Dining Dog

Or, go for color – there are so many cool plates that would be perfect for alfresco dining at Yvonne Williams.

Star plates

Star plates are perfect dinnerware for dinner under the stars.

Glassware for Alfesco Dining

Jewel Colors Blossom Glasses

These Blossom Glasses are jewel colors and have a real Moroccan tea glass look about them. Rich primary colors are perfect for jazzing up your outdoor dining table setting. (UK)

Cockatoo Wine Carafe

This Cockatoo carafe would be so cute as a wine carafe for your outdoor dining adventure. Made of translucent turquoise glass, it’s a quirky addition to your table that your guests will love.

Outdoor Dining

These glass “cans” are the perfect thing for outdoor dining – use them with glass straws. Even better, they say “Happy Every Day”!

Stunning Itallian Glassware

These Italian glasses from Obakki are made for Alfresco dining. We love this Luisa Vino three-piece set – check the site for many more options and colors. And you can find some great Italian cocktail recipes for summer on the same website.


Outdoor Lighting for Dinner under the Stars

We featured a whole post on Outdoor Lights for Magic Summer Nights recently, but here are some new choices for you. The monkeys just crack us up.

Outdoor Monkey Lights

Haven’t you always wanted a monkey? These outdoor monkey bulbs are so whimsical – and the perfect touch is the tie someone added! Maybe not for everyone, but we love them. Let them light the pathway to your Alfresco dinner party. (UK)

Dandelion Lights

Or maybe these Make a Wish Dandelion lights for that added extra touch? These stake lights are the perfect pathway companion. (UK)


Alfresco Dining Lights

And never forget the festoon lights. They really help to set the stage. There are lots of examples of these bare bulb string lights and they just look so New York outdoor patio bistro to us! (UK)

outdoor dining

Pizza Ovens for Alfresco Dining

One of the classics – outdoor pizza ovens – will allow your guests to choose their own toppings and to watch dinner being made. The first two are off the shelf and are heated by gas or wood pellets, and easy to use. There are also wood-burning pizza ovens, slightly more authentic but more work to start the oven, given fire is involved. 
Pizza Oven

The wood pellet-fired 12″ pizza oven works well outdoors. You can also get a gas-fired model. Or a 16-inch of either.

Portable Pizza Oven

How about a portable pizza oven?

Mosaic Pizza Oven

This mosaic brick oven is from Amazon UK. Has that real authentic look, don’t you think?

Build it yourself

Amazon US offers this pizza oven as a “form” – you pruchase the stones/bricks locally and use the form to build your oven. And now, we’re talking authentic pizza oven. This one is our choice, hands down!

How About an Alfresco Picnic?

Really, who doesn’t fancy a picnic in the summer? Especially a fancy one. While Alfresco dining may technically refer to tables – we think that picnics fit too. After all, they are outdoors!

Picinic Dining

This Fringed Canopy is easy to set up and oh-so-romantic. We just love the fringes on the tent, all the pillows and there’s even a vase of feather grass to set the mood. Very boho.

Parasol Blanket Parasol BlanketParasol Blanket

And how smart is this? A “parasol blanket” for your picnic, with a hole in the center for your sun umbrella. To be filed under: Why didn’t I think of that?


Alfresco dining

How about a red patio umbrella for some color? Very oriental, and very red – this is one of our favourite parasols – it really adds a great splash of color to your outdoor table setting.


Alfresco Picnic

This blue gingham picnic blanket is charming.  What says picnic more than gingham? And it has a waterproof backing, too.

Alfresco Dining

We love the red and white gingham tablecloths for Alfresco dining at tables, too. Kind of classic, aren’t they? I can imagine sitting here, listening to the sound of the surf, chatting with friends. Can you? Who are you dining with?

The Al Fresco Dining Extras

Don’t think you’re done… lots of little added touches that will take your Alfresco dining experience up a level. From specialized outdoor cushions to table linens – keep it simple but make it special.

Seat Cushions

Funky Seat Cushions

These funky seat cushions are fashioned after vintage matchbox designs. Ganesh, Las Vegas, Wonder Palms Hotel – they are the perfect added touch. At the moment, Graham And Greene have limited international shipping but forwarding services are available… and I these are worth the trouble. I’m ordering four. But I can’t decide between the two sets … yet.

Outdoor Dining cushions

Don’t the cushions look great on this slate bench?

Seat Cushions Afresco Dining

And more matchbox seat cushions from Graham & Greene – this time with a bird theme (from the UK – see note above).

Table Linens for Alfresco Dining


French Navy Stripe Table Runner

Navy French Stripe Table Runners from Not on the High Street really elevates your outdoor table. Love the stripes.

Alfresco Dining Napkins

These Blue Hare napkins are as whimsical as they come. And there are more styles to choose from – lobster, vegetables, feathers or dahlias. You can even mix and match.

Alfresco Dining - Custom Napkins

But does it get better than this? Personalized, organic linen dinner napkins. Now that’s an outdoor dinner party.

Romantic Alfresco Dining

Or maybe you just want a nice romantic dinner for two by the sea …

Written by Beverley Wood

Beverley Wood has lived on boats in Toronto and Vancouver and in an old hacienda in Mexico. She knows funky when she sees it. She's been writing since she was old enough to pick up a pen and has never shied away from the unusual or the whimsical. Her love of the unique (and sometimes bizarre) led her to Captivatist.