One of the biggest things to look forward to the most when traveling to Italy is easily the food and drinks! But, there are a number of rules to keep in mind when dining and drinking in Italy. Chris Atwood with See Italy has come up with "11 Rules For Eating In Italy", but our agents have thrown in an extra couple rules ourselves 😉 *Look for See Italy’s original article that is linked at the bottom of this post*
#1. Pasta portions are individual sized.
Here in the United States, we have Americanized Italian plates to a crazy amount. Most Italian restaurants that we know, offer enormous portion sizes of their pastas that are easily big enough to share. This is NOT the case in Italy. The pasta in Italy, considered there as “Primo” is individually sized and this is not because the cook is being stingy. Italians like to stagger their meals. They eat their appetizers first, then their pasta and THEN their main entrée. By keeping their pasta dish to a smaller size, Italians hold on to their appetites long enough to full enjoy all courses without feeling too stuffed. Leaving room for plenty Tiramisu for dessert!
#2. The pizza toppings are totally different in Italy.
When ordering a Pepperoni Pizza in Italy, you will get a pizza pie covered in peppers. Why? Because pepperoni in Italy means ‘bell peppers’. Pizza originated in Italy, but again, we have Americanized the Italian Pizza to a crazy amount. For example, BBQ chicken pizza, Hawaiian pizza & yes, even the pepperoni pizza originated here in the United States. NOT Italy. The traditional pizzas found in Italy will be the Margherita (mozzarella, tomato & basil), the Marinara (which is just crust & tomato sauce), the Quattro Formaggi (white pizza with four types of cheese), and the Capricciosa (artichokes, ham, mushrooms, and black olives). So keep this in mind when going to order your favorite pizza pie in Italy!
#3. You do not need to order the whole menu.
As noted above, Italians stagger the way they eat. Enjoying the antipasta before moving on to first course (pasta/risotto/soup). The second course is either a meat or fish dish. This is why you will NEVER see a meat or fish entrée served on the same plate as your pasta. Italians consider these as two separate dishes that should be enjoyed separately, with the pasta being served before the main dish. Insider tip: Split your antipasta and then order either a pasta or an entrée. If you are STILL hungry, you can always go back for more 😉
#4. ONLY drink wine or water at a restaurant.
We come from a land with AT LEAST five drinks choices being offered on almost any menu here in the States. At many sit-down restaurants, Italians will only sip on two drinks; wine and water. The wine in Italy will be served in chilled glass bottles and will usually cost about 2 euros per bottle. The waiter will usually ask you if you want “acqua naturale” which is flat mineral water or “acqua frizzante” which is fizzy mineral water also known as sparkling water. Do not ask for tap water, most restaurants will refuse to serve that to you. House wines can be ordered by the liter and are usually the same price as the water! Most will offer wine by the bottle also.
#5. Oil & vinegar are the only salad dressings offered.
“Italian dressing” in Italy does not exist. That salad dressing was (yes, you guessed it) Americanized as well! When ordering a salad in Italy, the waiter will bring extra virgin olive oil and vinegar to the table or “olio e aceto”. This is the only way Italians eat insalata. Another fun fact! Italians will absolutely not dip their bread into olive oil and balsamic.
#6. No bread before pasta!
With foods like pizza, pasta and focaccia most think that Italians eat nothing BUT carbs. This is actually not the case. When ordering pasta, Italians would never consider eating their bread before their bucatini. The bread that is served at restaurants is used to scoop up the leftover pasta sauce onto your plate and ONLY when you are finished consuming the pasta.
#7. There are no such things as “doggy bags” to bring leftovers with you.
Italians love fresh, homemade meals. They do not appreciate leftovers the way we do here in the states. You must be careful not to over order while dining in Italy. The pasta that is left on your plate will be taken away and not returned back to you. So, enjoy the food that is in front of you while you can but do not expect to take it home with you.
#8. Some dishes will not exist in all of Italy.
Rome is world famous for Carbonara. Florence is known for its Fagioli and Venetians go crazy for their risotto. Wherever you travel in Italy, each region will provide you their own flavors. So the food you enjoy in Rome will not necessarily resemble what you enjoy in Sorrento. Insider tip: before heading to Italy, do some research as to the local specialties in each of the places that you will be staying.
#9. Cheese does not always go on your dish.
It is not customary to ask for grated cheese on top of your dish. Sprinkling grated cheese on pasta dishes and Italian entrees is yet again a very American thing to do. Unless your waiter offers you a spoonful of grated cheese, do not ask for it. It is not meant to be on that dish or it will be offered after it is served.
#10. Enjoy a caffe or digestive after dinner.
Only foreigners will order a cappuccino with or after dinner in Italy. Italians would much rather order a caffe or macchiato after savoring a full, slow meal. Cappuccino’s are filled with milk and cream and is considered much too heavy after consuming a bunch of carbs. It is also very common to order a caffe corretto after dining, which is a shot of espresso spiked with liqueur. Insider tip: NEVER pass up on dessert while in Italy.
#11. Ask for your bill, when YOU want it.
Here in the States, we are so accustomed to the waiter bringing us our check when we are finished dining. This is not the case in Italy. The waiters in Italy want you to sit and enjoy your meal and do not want to hurry you out the door. Instead, they will wait for you to ask for the bill (which you can simply do so by flagging them down and requesting the “il conto” when you are ready to pay because they do not want to rush you out the door.
#12. Peel your fruits and vegetables.
Italians do not consume fruits and vegetables with the skin on them. They will always peel the skin off first. Many think that this is because Italians think the pesticides are unhealthy but most will say that this is because of tradition. If you start to bite into a fruit that still has the skin on it, you will most likely have the fruit ripped from your hand and the skin cut off for you by a local. Don’t get embarrassed this way 😉
#13. Arrive late to any dinner party or dining event.
It is considered rude in Italy to arrive early or on time to a dinner event. Italians will always try and arrive just a tad after the planned time as to not rush the host or chef.
Below you can find pictures shared by Travel Consultant Julie Skrainka, who travelled to Sorrento back in May. She & her husband, Alan spent an evening at their Agriturismo making pizzas with their host Natalia, her mother-in-law and her husband Luigi. Once Julie & her husband were finished creating their pizza masterpieces, Luigi then baked them in their own beautiful wood-fired oven.
Read more of See Italy’s article, written by Chris Atwood here
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