A new approach to dining has opened on Frankfort Ave. Gina Stipo, who for 13 years lived in Tuscany, taught Italian cooking to food-centric tourists from around the world, and led culinary tours of the Italian countryside, has moved to Louisville and opened The Italian Table at 2359 Frankfort Ave. There, she will offer private dinners for up to 10 diners around her antique country table, teach classes in everyday Italian cuisine, and also offer a selection of food products in a small retail space.

Stipo has visited Louisville frequently over the last few years, in support of the Italian Cultural Institute of Louisville, for which she planned a fund-raising dinner several years ago, and has subsequently offered cooking classes at the annual ICI fund-raising auctions. As a result, she fell in love with Louisville, and when she decided to return to the States, she looked in Louisville for a way to continue her food-related career.

“I bought a house in Crescent Hill, and found a great little place on Frankfort where I could offer my vision for a different sort of dining experience,” Stipo said in a phone interview. “Guests sit around a communal dining table, amid a collection of Italian antiques, and I cook them dinner.” She can seat private dinner parties, or have several small groups who can eat together, talk and get to know one another.

Stipo will offer seasonal Italian cooking classes by reservation. “Every class will have a session on making pasta,” she said, “as well as other seasonal dishes. My experience is in Italian regional cooking, and the Italians always eat what is in season.” Right now  her emphasis is on all the things Italians do with summer squashes and tomatoes. “In the winter I anticipate doing more with heartier, heavier dinners, with wild game, duck, perhaps a medieval-themed dinner.”

Stipo’s goal is to educate Louisvillians on the way food is prepared and eaten in Italy. One interesting point that Stipo has noticed in many American restaurants serving Italian food is that American chefs tend to put too many ingredients together in one dish. “In Italy, cooking is usually simpler, taking the best fresh ingredients and doing as little as is necessary to make them taste wonderful.”

Sunday, Aug. 23 Stipo will demonstrate her approach to cooking with seasonal vegetables Italian style at the Rainbow Blossom farmers market, where she will demonstrate how to prepare roasted vegetables with fresh herbs. “I want to give some ideas for different things to do with the excess of summer,” she said.

Initially, Stipo’s chefs table dinners will be offered  by reservation on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Hands-on cooking classes are offered Tuesdays from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. reservations can be made through her website. Her retail space featuring linens and cookbooks and her favorite foods and specialty  ingredients such as sea salts, Italian cookies, tomato paste, and dried mushrooms will be open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.