Buffet table

Italian architect Paola Navone's annual open house in Milan inspired this bountiful spread, which not only promotes the power of plenty but loosens up the idea of what serving pieces can go together. "The design of my party is simply an extension of my normal life," Paola says. Even when she's mixing her own tableware with flea-market finds, to her eye, "everything matches."

If you actually want to get into a conversation with guests or listen to a story through to its punch line, a self-supporting setup is the ticket. Paola's table is fully stocked from the start, so guests can make up their own plates and are free to serve themselves again and again.

Credits: Paola designed the Gervasoni Blu hammered silver-plated tray with forks ($729, imoderni). Frittatas are served on stoneware plates ($40 each, Terrafirma Ceramics). A mozzarella roll is on a porcelain tray ($78, Global Table); Photo by Gentl & Hyers, styling by Sabine Tucker, food styling by Anne Disrude
Buffet table

Our groaning board is assembled from delicacies found in the prepared-food section of Italian markets, bread sticks and garlic knots made from pizza dough, and vegetable frittatas that are easily prepared before the party. Paola likens her tomato and zucchini frittatas to oversize omelettes.

"We are all on diets all the time," she explains, "and the frittatas have not so much oil, so we can eat plenty." Freshness and quality are what matter, which may suggest allowing enough lead time to order a beautiful prosciutto.

Credits: Paola designed the Gervasoni Blu glassware ($397 to $405 for a set of six, imoderni) and decorated the Driade salad and dinner plates, bowl, and platters, which hold bread knots ($114 to $289, all M at Mercer). Tomatoes overflow a wooden bowl ($185, Aero Ltd.); Photo by Gentl & Hyers, styling by Sabine Tucker, food styling by Anne Disrude
Three types of mozzarella

Three types of mozzarella—(from left), fresh, leaf-wrapped burrata (a variety with an ultra-creamy center), and smoked—make the perfect canvas on which to layer flavors, whether balsamic vinegar or ripe tomatoes.

Credits: Rectangular tray ($100, Terrafirma Ceramics); Photo by Gentl & Hyers, styling by Sabine Tucker, food styling by Anne Disrude
Flat bread and bread sticks

Flat bread and bread sticks are set on tea towels.

Credits: Photo by Gentl & Hyers, styling by Sabine Tucker, food styling by Anne Disrude
Olives

Olives are piled in a small cup.

Credits: Cup ($30, Gleena); Photo by Gentl & Hyers, styling by Sabine Tucker, food styling by Anne Disrude
Fresh buffalo-milk mozzarella

Fresh buffalo-milk mozzarella is worth building a menu around. In fact, Obikà, a mozzarella bar with branches in Milan, Rome and London, puts the delicate, pliable cheese at the center of every meal.

Credits: Paola's Gervasoni Blu dish ($483 for a set of six, imoderni); Photo by Gentl & Hyers, styling by Sabine Tucker, food styling by Anne Disrude
Cold cuts

Guests put together platefuls of Italian salumi, or cold cuts.

Credits: Photo by Gentl & Hyers, styling by Sabine Tucker, food styling by Anne Disrude
Paola Navone

One more way to simplify is to keep the logistics minimal. Paola doesn't bother with invitations—she just tells people which night she's picked for her festa, then they tell people who tell people. Around 7 p.m. she says, "We open the door and friends come." Lots of them.

Just as Paola's buffet fuses cultures and materials, so do her designs. She's photographed here with pieces from her Gingerbread collection for Lando, all of which update Victorian silhouettes—a parchment-covered chair, a wardrobe that hides a surprising cobalt blue interior, and a set of shelves with steel-reinforced Bassano ceramic vases as shelf supports.

Credits: Photo by Gentl & Hyers, styling by Sabine Tucker, food styling by Anne Disrude

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