"A great hostess is someone who makes everyone feel at home," says Martina Mondadori Sartogo—something the editor-in-chief of Cabana Magazine achieves by (only!) serving homemade dishes, keeping the flowers wild and selecting tabletops equally cozy to her outfits: "never be overdressed." And the design connoisseur would know. Her fabric-covered interiors biannual is considered paradise for the aesthete. "We tell stories with images and details, colors, textures and patterns," Sartogo explains. Put simply, what Vogue is to a well-dressed woman, Cabana is to a well-dressed home.

 

Those familiar with Sartogo and her parties (from Tuscany to Mexico, she's renowned for her stellar entertaining style), know her "rules" on hosting are those to live (and dine) by. In town to co-host the launch of the summer tabletop collection she designed with Moda (an exclusive range of limited edition ceramics, table linens and glass tumblers delightfully designed to mix and match—as is the trend), she agreed to let us quiz her on everything we've ever wanted to know about entertaining. From what to never bring your host (champagne) to how many table settings to buy (always sets of six), here’s the insider’s guide to great hosting.
 

Tatiana Hambro

THE RULES TO REMEMBER

SHOP THE COLLECTION

FAQs

Everything you’ve ever wanted to ask, including where the dessert spoon looks best, answered.

HOW MANY PEOPLE SHOULD I INVITE?

I generally like to keep numbers below 10 but sometimes this is impossible. For a seated dinner I would not exceed more than 20 people.

 

TO COOK OR TO CATER?

I only serve homemade meals; no catering unless it is a party for more than 50 guests.

 

IS ASSIGNED SEATING REALLY NECESSARY?

Personally, I feel buffet dinners are better during the summer. But if you have quite a few newcomers, it is essential to do a seating plan so you as a host can manage the mingling. I always split couples!

 

WHAT’S THE BEST ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL COCKTAIL?

During summer, I like serving an Aperol Spritz. Or a good old Gin and Tonic.

 

HOW TO TACKLE FOOD ALLERGIES?

I usually ask in advance (but I tend to only respond to real allergies, not to the intolerances trending at the moment).

 

WHAT’S THE ULTIMATE CROWD-PLEASER?

Homemade desserts.

 

WHERE’S THE BEST PLACE TO POSITION THE DESSERT SPOON?

On top of the plates, above the dessert fork and knife.

 

ARE PAPER NAPKINS EVER ACCEPTABLE?

No, paper napkins are for kids' parties only. Don't put them in the dryer, let them air dry and then lightly steam to preserve the softness of the linen.

WHAT TO WEAR

BE THE "BEST GUEST"

Here’s how to get invited back.

 

Bring something personal. Find out if your host collects something and look for a piece to add—ceramics, prints, etc.

 

When in doubt, flowers always work. But don’t be shy about it, they should be magnificent.

 

Don’t bring a bottle of champagne. It really says I don’t care.

 

Arrive within 15 minutes of the time on the invite. Any later is always too late.

 

Never be the first—or last—to leave. Make your exit after the first 3 or 4 people have left (unless you are having the time of your life!)

 

Offer to lend a hand. It depends on the formality of the evening, but I think it is always a good idea to at least propose to help.