For relaxed entertaining, make a variety of colorful salads and side dishes ahead and then serve them family-style.
Cooking in the Italian spirit isn’t about slavishly following recipes but rather about finding good, fresh ingredients, preparing them simply, and seasoning well. In the summer and early fall, there’s no easier way to entertain than in the antipasto tradition–big bowls and platters of room-temperature dishes that can be set out on the table and served family-style. All of the dishes together will generously serve about ten people, but for a smaller crowd, you might make only two or three of the antipasti. If you do make the entire menu and refrigerate some of the dishes, let them sit out for a good half hour before serving, to let their flavors perk up, and then adjust the seasoning if needed.