Why are we travelling? History and culture for sure, but let's face it, local food always plays one of the biggest roles in our vacation. And the joy of eating in Italy is one of the main reasons why travelers from all over the world book their trip to Belpaese.
Italy is known for its exquisite cuisine. From pasta to pizza, there's something for everyone.
But before you book your ticket and start planning your restaurant itinerary, there are a few things you should know about eating out in Italy.
Whether it's your first time or not, these tips from Italian food culture will help you learn to order like a pro and avoid embarrassing mishaps.
All tips and advice on what to do and what not to do in Italy are based on our own experience in Italy: from my husband, whomoved to rome from afghanistanand I was born and raised here.
Are you ready? Let's see what you should and should not do when dining out in Italy.
Food Dos in Italy
Try typical Italian dishes
Italy is a renowned culinary destination and for good reason - the food here is simply amazing. Whether you're tucking into a plate of freshly made pasta or enjoying a slice of rich tiramisu, dining in Italy is an experience you'll never forget.
We know that when traveling and outside our comfort zone, it can be tempting to stick with the familiar dishes from home. However, eating like a local is one of the best ways to truly immerse yourself in your destination's culture. This is especially true in Italy, where food is an integral part of everyday life and culture.
From regional specialties to homemade pasta, there are countless ways to savor the flavors of Italy. And while McDonald's may be convenient, it can never compete with this country's rich culinary traditions. So the next time you're in Italy, resist the urge to eat familiar McDonald's dishes and explore the delicious world of Italian cuisine.
There's something about the compulsive search for fresh, delicious ingredients and the relaxed pace of dining that makes dining in Italy a truly special experience. While you'll find many familiar dishes on menus across the country, be sure to sample the local specialties of the region you're visiting.
From creamy polenta to thin-crust pizzas, each region of Italy has its own culinary traditions. so next timeplanning a trip to Italy, be sure to leave room in your bag - and stomach - for all the delicious food you'll eat (and shop) in every city and region!
Be sure to read our in-depth article onItalian food region by region!
Ask locals for recommendations
One of the best ways to learn about a new culture is through food. When traveling to Italy, be sure to ask locals you know or even hotel staff about the best restaurants in town. While there are many excellent restaurants serving traditional Italian cuisine, sometimes the best meals can be found in local cafes and trattorias.
These smaller restaurants tend to use fresh local ingredients, making for a more authentic and delicious dining experience. Plus, the staff at these locations are usually happy to give you a tour of the menu and offer suggestions on what to order. So the next time you're in Italy, don't just go for the expensive tourist traps - ask around and discover the wonderful world of local cuisine.
Prepare to spend a little more time eating out in Italy
If you're used to scarfing down your meals, be prepared to change your eating habits when you're in Italy. Meals are definitely an event and can last for several hours (not in your case, don't worry, only for big events like weddings). Italians typically start with a light appetizer, followed by a first course (usually pasta or soup), then a second course (fish or meat) with a side dish. And of course, no meal is complete without dessert!
The good news is that all dishes are delicious, so it's worth taking the time to savor them. Just be warned that you might end up having to loosen your belt a few notches!
Order coffee at the counter if you're on a budget
If you're traveling on a budget, remember that when ordering your coffee at a bar, you should always prefer the counter to a table. In Italy drinks, coffee, sandwiches or whatever you have in a bar are often more expensive if you sit down and order at the table.
This is especially true in tourist areas and near major attractions, where prices are often higher. By ordering at the counter you can save a few euros as prices are fixed.
Do not miss our articleDrinking coffee in Italy!
Ask the waiter for recommendations if you're not sure what to order.
If this is your first time eating Italian, you might not be sure what to order. Fortunately, most restaurants have waiters who are happy and can make recommendations. When in doubt, ask the waiter what his favorite dish is or what he recommends for those who are eating Italian for the first time. They should be able to point you in the right direction and help you find something you like. You may find your new favorite Italian dish!
Let the waiter know if you have any dietary restrictions.
When traveling to Italy it is important to mention any dietary restrictions you will need to implement. Many restaurants in Italy serve food that contains meat, dairy and other ingredients that may not be suitable for people with food allergies or intolerances. One of them is certainly gluten, which is widespread on Italian menus. So if you have celiac disease, ask about gluten-free options before ordering food at an Italian restaurant. You can also ask the waiter what the ingredients are in each dish and ask them to remove some ingredients.
Furthermore, it is important to remember that Italian customs and eating habits vary from region to region. For example, some Italian regions may not have as many options for vegetarian or vegan cuisine. Therefore, it is always best to research the gastronomic options of each region before traveling. That way, you can be sure to enjoy all the delicious food Italy has to offer.
Try pasta and pizza - must-sees in Italy
Pasta and pizza are two of the most popular dishes that you should definitely try when visiting Italy. Pasta is usually made with wheat flour, water and eggs, and can be served with a variety of meat and seafood sauces. The pizza is made with yeast dough, topped with tomato sauce and cheese and then baked in the oven. You'll likely find long sourdough pizza at the best pizzerias, and trust me, this is the high-quality treat you've been looking for.
Both pasta and pizza are staples of the Italian diet and have been enjoyed for centuries. If you're looking for a truly authentic Italian experience, be sure to try pasta and pizza. You won't be disappointed as long as it's not a crappy tourist restaurant!
Eating pizza with your hands
Italians always use cutlery to eat, but picking up pizza is allowed. We usually use a knife and fork to cut the round pizza into triangular slices and then fold them and eat them easily with our hands.
This is especially true in pizzerias and unpretentious places, perhaps in high-end restaurants, I would still use a knife and fork on my pizza. That's if you still want to order pizza at high-end restaurants!
After the meal, order a cup of coffee
Neither before nor during the meal. Coffee is an important part of Italian culture. Italians typically drink espresso or cappuccino for breakfast and coffee after lunch and dinner.
Although coffee is usually served black, it is not uncommon to add a drop of milk (macchiato), particularly at breakfast. So order your favorite after-dinner coffee when dining in Italy – you're a perfect match for the locals. Remember to ask for “caffè americano” if you prefer a longer coffee: if you order a simple “caffè”, you will get an espresso!
Be sure to read our articlehow to order coffee in italy.
Enjoy a glass of wine with dinner (or lunch)
One of the best things about a trip to Italy is experiencing the food culture firsthand. From world-famous pizza and pasta to more obscure regional dishes, there's something for everyone. And, of course, no Italian meal would be complete without a glass of wine. In fact, wine plays such an important role in Italian cuisine that there are even certain rules about when and how to drink it.
For example, red wine is usually only served with hearty dishes like steaks and stews, while white wine is reserved for lighter dishes like fish and seafood. Of course, these are just general guidelines - it's ultimately up to you to decide what you prefer to eat in Italy.
Tip the waiter when dining in Italy - not an Italian custom but appreciated
Italian dining etiquette is different than what you may be used to in the States. For example, making noise while eating and drinking is perfectly acceptable. Italians tend to use their hands a lot when eating, so don't be surprised if you see people gesticulating as they talk.
Different rules also apply to tips. While it is customary to tip 15-20% in the United States, tipping is not as common in Italy, especially when the bill already includes an extra 10% for service. However, when you receive exceptional service, it's always nice to leave some extra cash.
Choose the right gelato
When you eat out in Italy, you're sure to enjoy a good gelato, but make sure you opt for the artisanal treat. Some ways to tell the real ice cream from the fake stuff? It's not garish fluorescent colors and on display, it's not a huge fluffy mountain, better if it is kept on a covered wall so that the temperature is the same everywhere and the air does not spoil it. Instead, when it comes to real gelato, the pistachio is light green, fading to a light tan, and the strawberry is pale pink, not scary purple. Blue flavors? They do not exist!
What not to do when eating out in Italy
Don't be afraid to order a dish that looks strange or unfamiliar.
Italians take their food seriously. And while visitors to the country might be tempted to stick to dishes they know and love, they would be missing out on some of Italy's finest cuisine. So the next time you're in Italy, don't be afraid to order a dish that looks strange or unfamiliar - you might just be surprised at just how delicious it is.
Eating like a native in Italy is one of the best ways to experience its culture and is an integral part of the Italian way of life. By trying new things, you will not only discover amazing new flavors, but also gain a deeper insight into the country's rich culinary heritage. So come on - this is Italian cuisine after all.
Don't leave anything on your plate
One of the most important gastronomic traditions in Italy is the concept of finire il piatto, that is, preparing the dish. This tradition is based on the belief that food should be respected and not wasted. It's not because it's considered bad manners to leave food on your plate, it's because it would give the impression that you didn't like the food.
To avoid this, I suggest ordering your dishes in stages rather than all at once. If you are hungry, comeAntipastiEprima(usually pasta or rice) orprimaand a supplement (Contour) as a salad or grilled vegetables. Still hungry? visit theseconds, usually meat or fish.
Don't clean your plate
I know "that" sauce was so good, but cleaning your plate with a piece of bread is not considered a good thing in Italian etiquette. This is especially true if you're at a restaurant, but if you're at a friend's house and you really can't resist, just let him know and make it a laugh.
Do not order food from the Calabrian region before ordering
Before ordering food from the Calabria region of Italy, ask what the chili tastes like. Food in this area can be extremely spicy and hot for some people. If you are not used to eating spicy food, you can order something less spicy. Calabrian peppers are some of the spiciest peppers in the world, so be careful when ordering dishes that contain them.
When in doubt, ask the waiter or waitress for advice on how to order your food. They can tell which dishes are milder and which are more spicy.
Don't be surprised if your pasta arrives with the sauce.
Italian cuisine is rich and varied, with each region offering its own dishes and specialties. However, there are some similarities that can be found across the country. One of them is the way pasta is usually served. In most Italian restaurants, the pasta comes with the sauce at the table.
This might seem unusual to some outsiders, but it makes perfect sense. Pasta is a delicate food that can quickly become mushy and mushy. By seasoning it with sauce before serving, chefs can ensure it is perfectly al dente. So if you're surprised the next time you order spaghetti at an Italian restaurant, remember that it's all part of the experience.
Don't be afraid to order a dish that looks too complicated - it's likely to be delicious!
Italian food is some of the most delicious in the world and there are so many different dishes to try. While it can be tempting to stick with familiar favorites, part of the fun of dining in Italy is trying new things. So if you see a dish on the menu that seems a little too complicated, just ask for it!
Most likely, it will be absolutely delicious. After all, Italians know a thing or two about food. In fact, food is such an important part of Italian culture that mealtimes are often seen as an opportunity to socialize and meet friends and family. So don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone when ordering food in Italy - you just might discover your new favorite Italian food.
Do not hesitate to ask the waiter what ingredients to add or remove from your or your child's dish.
Italian food is world famous for its delicious flavors and fresh ingredients. However, when dining out in Italy, it can be difficult to know how to order delicious and healthy food. Fortunately, most restaurants take special orders, so don't hesitate to ask the waiter which ingredient you'd like to add or remove from your or your child's dish. This helps ensure that everyone can enjoy an enjoyable and satisfying meal. And who knows? You may discover a new favorite flavor combination.
Don't order the same food every day
Known for its use of fresh ingredients, ease of preparation and robust flavors, Italian cuisine has something for everyone. When you arrive in Italy, don't always order the same food. Try to try as many different dishes as possible. Traditional Italian dishes tend to consist of several small dishes, each with a different flavor or texture. Start your meal with a light antipasti and continue with a hearty pasta dish or risotto or soup, if that's on the menu.
For a main course, choose from grilled meat or fish or a classic Italian stew. And of course, don't forget to leave room for dessert! Whether you're enjoying a rich chocolate ice cream or a slice of tiramisu. After all, it is part of the Italian gastronomic tradition to taste varied dishes. From ratatouille and lasagna to chicken parmigiana and bruschetta, there's an Italian dish for every taste. Therefore, if you are in Rome or any other Italian city, try something new from local cuisine every day.
Don't order a cappuccino with your meal - not common in Italy
If you want to eat like a local in Italy, there are a few things to keep in mind. One is that, traditionally, cappuccino is only drunk in the morning, usually served before 11am, and never with food, unless it's a croissant. Therefore, if you want to order like a true Italian, opt for the espresso or “Americano” coffee after lunch or dinner. Italians also tend to eat their meals later in the day than Americans. So, if you are used to having an early lunch, you might feel a little peckish when dinner is over.
Don't drink red wine with seafood or white wine with meat
Eat like a local in Italy and you'll never go wrong. When it comes to pairing food and wine, Italians know best. Therefore, you should always try to follow their lead and avoid drinking red wine with seafood or white wine with meat. Red wine pairs best with hearty dishes like pasta Bolognese or grilled steak.
Bold flavors stand up to the meat's richness, while tannins help fat penetrate. White wine, on the other hand, is the perfect companion for lighter dishes such as grilled fish, lobster or seafood salad. The delicate flavors won't overwhelm the delicate flavors of the seafood, and the acidity will help bring out the brightness of the dish. This is really a rule of thumb, but no one will judge you for doing anything else!
Do not pour drinks into a glass with your left hand - some Italians may find this disrespectful
Italians take food and drink very seriously and there are a number of etiquette rules that must be followed in order not to offend anyone. One of those rules of Italian etiquette is to never pour a drink into a glass with your left hand - it's considered disrespectful. At least in some places likeSardinia.
This rule is especially important if you are eating at someone's house, as it is considered bad manners not to follow their eating habits. However, it's also important to be mindful when dining out at a restaurant, even though more casual restaurants may not have the same strict rules.
Don't eat in crowded tourist restaurants
Tourist restaurants in Italy are often expensive and the quality of the food is often not as good as that of a local restaurant. These establishments tend to rely on visitors unfamiliar with the area who are willing to pay more for an average meal. Also, they cannot use fresh ingredients or follow traditional cooking methods. As a result, if you eat in a crowded tourist restaurant in Italy, you might be disappointed with your meal.
It's best to avoid restaurants where employees stand on the street and force people to eat. A good, high-quality, authentic Italian restaurant doesn't have to drive customers off the street. And if the menus are only in Italian, even better: you can also use Google Translate or ask the waiter for help.
These places are best avoided if you are looking for a truly authentic Italian dining experience. Instead, look for smaller restaurants that are off the beaten path. You'll likely find better food at a better price.
Italian eating habits, foods and habits
Italian expressions about food
Italian is a beautiful language, and since food is an important part of Italian culture, we can go through some Italian phrases related to food to make your dinner in Italy smoother and more enjoyable.
- "Enjoy!" This phrase means "bon appetit" and is the perfect way to start an Italian meal. That's how you say bon appetit in Italian.
- "Thanks also!" This is simply the answer to bon appétit.
- "Can I have the menu?" means: Can I have the menu, please?
- "Can I pay the bill?" means: Can I keep the account?
- "Quant'è?" This is usually
- "Mancia" is the hint.
- “What are the gluten-free dishes? It means: What are the gluten-free dishes?
- "Can you get me a glass of white/red wine?" Meaning: Can I have a glass of white/red wine?
- "Can you bring me still/sparkling water?" It means: Can I drink still/sparkling water?
- "Cappuccino e cornetto, grazie" This is a typical bar breakfast, cappuccino and croissant.
- "Mangiare" is the Italian word for food.
- "TI place?" It means "Did you like it?"
- "Delicious!" It simply means "delicious" and it's the perfect way to go.
- "L'appetito vien mangiando" means that even if you don't feel hungry right now, once you start eating, you will.
- "When si mangia non si parla". It's an old adage not to eat with your mouth full. Of course, since Italian tables are so noisy, we all agree that Italians talk while they eat. Just not with your mouth full!
What do Italians eat for breakfast?
When it comes to breakfast, Italians tend to keep it simple. A typical Italian breakfast consists of a piece of bread or bread, usually accompanied by coffee or milk. Sweet cakes are also sometimes eaten for breakfast, and fresh fruit or yogurt are also common breakfast foods in Italy.
At home, many Italians start their day with a quick espresso at the kitchen counter. However, on weekends and holidays, Italians often enjoy a more leisurely breakfast with family or friends. It includes fresh juice, croissants, biscuits, homemade cakes, bread and jams and even oatmeal. That said, Italian eating habits vary by region, but there are some staple foods that can be found across the country.
Do not miss our articleBreakfast in Italy.
What do Italians eat for lunch?
Italians take their food seriously, and lunch is no exception. In fact, lunch is often the biggest and most important meal of the day, usually served between 12:00 and 14:00. The typical Italian lunch consists of several courses, including an antipasti such as bruschetta or caprese salad, a primo such as pasta or risotto, a secondo such as roast chicken or beef, grilled fish or vegetables, and a dessert.
Especially in a restaurant, because at home there are almost no dishes left. I usually have a plate and a salad.
What do Italians eat for dinner?
While there isn't a single dish that all Italians eat for dinner, there are some common staples. Dinner is usually lighter than lunch because it's closer to bedtime. Some of the dishes we prefer for dinner are soups, a light rice dish, or chicken breast or fish with some vegetables or a salad.
When do Italians dine?
Many people think that Italians eat late at night, but the reality is that meal times in Italy depend on the region and time of year. For example, in northern Italy, dinner is usually served between 7 pm and 9 pm. In southern Italy, dinner is usually done later than in the north of the country.
In northern Italy, the climate is cooler and daylight hours are shorter, so traditionally people have dinner in the early evening. In Trentino Alto Adige, for example, it is not uncommon to have dinner around 6 or 7 pm.
It's one of the very general rules of Italian food, but depending on where you are, check restaurant opening hours to avoid surprises.
italian food label
Italian eating habits relate to the broader framework of social norms known asHang tags. This is a rather complicated set of rules that covers everything to do with good manners, and of course, Italian food and eating habits play an important role.
Let's face it, not everyone in Italy remembers and applies all the rules. For example, according to Galateo, smoking and talking on the phone during meals are taboos. Also, your napkin should be on your knees, you should never use a toothpick, your elbows shouldn't be on the table, and you shouldn't be talking with your mouth full.
How many dishes do Italians order?
How many dishes do Italians order is a question that often confuses visitors to Italy. The answer, like most things in Italian cooking, is simple yet subtle. A traditional Italian meal usually consists of five courses: antipasti (starter), primo (first course), secondo (main course), contour (side dish) and dessert.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule - a light lunch may only consist of one or two courses, while a sumptuous feast may consist of five or more courses. Although five courses are the norm, I can never eat them all, so I usually order any one of them.primaor onesecond. Let's look at each course.
- Antipasti consist of small appetizers, a wide variety of amuse-bouche such as fried fish or vegetable patties, tartare or carpaccio (very thin slices of raw meat) or marinated fish. They are often so delicious that you have to be careful not to order too much or you run the risk of having the main course already full. I suggest you order one or two at the most unless you are sharing a plate with the rest of the table.
- Primo is usually pasta, rice or soup depending on the region and type of restaurant. If you are vegetarian or vegetarian, order this dish, and if you are still hungry, order an appetizer or a side dish. Primo is usually cheaper than the main dish.
- The main dish is called “Secondo” and almost always consists of a meat or fish dish. Sometimes you'll find a main dish with eggs or cheese and vegetables as the main ingredients, like a frittata or eggplant parmigiana. Some newer restaurants with a more contemporary menu may also offer a plant-based entrée such as a vegan burger, but this is definitely not the norm.
- Contorni is the list of side dishes and includes fresh salads, grilled vegetables, sautéed or marinated vegetables (in Rome they loveChicoreeseasoned with vinegar and anchovies) or fries or potatoes in the oven. The side dish usually accompanies the main dish (secondo). When salads are big, rich plates that also include cheese or fish like tuna or salmon and resemble a bowl rather than just fresh vegetables, this can be a complete meal.
- Desserts need very little introduction. From tiramisu to panna cotta to the cake of the day, if you have a sweet tooth I suggest you leave a little room for this because it will be worth it.
- Coffee. As I mentioned before, strictly after eating, not during lunch. If it's dinner time and you're not used to strong coffee, you can order a decaf coffee.
There are some exceptions to the à la carte menus, usually during holidays such as New Year, Christmas, Easter and Ferragosto. Restaurants nowadays usually have a few fixed menu options based on meat or fish. Higher quality restaurants may also offer a vegetarian selection.
If you're on one of these occasions, don't be surprised if the waiter brings out a steady stream of dishes. It's a big meal, but portions are often smaller. Just sit back, relax and enjoy your meal.
How do I order food like an Italian?
If you want to enjoy a truly authentic Italian meal, it's important to know how to order food like an Italian. When you enter a restaurant, you usually wait for the waiter to serve you, depending on how many people are with you.
After securing your table, the waiter will bring you the menu and give you time to review it. Usually, you'll be asked right away if you want some water and given a choice between still and sparkling. Some restaurants serve filtered tap water cheaper than bottled mineral water and if they do, don't worry because it means it's safe to drink.
For wine, you can order a glass (kalice) or a liter, half liter or quarter bottle. The same goes for beer, you can have a bottle or draft beer.
When ordering food, you can ask the waiter for recommendations and also if he prepares half portions, or let him know that you want to share the dish with your partner. I often do this with my husband when we order the cake.
How do you find the best restaurants in Italy?
With so many great restaurants to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. To narrow your choices, here's how to find the best restaurants in Italy: Look for authentic, non-touristy restaurants where you'll see Italian fare.
When in Italy's capital, Rome, be sure to stop by Bonci's "Pizzarium" for a slice of authentic pizza. For something a little more Roman, head to Felice a Testaccio, where you can sample traditional dishes like cacio e pepe, carbonara and amatriciana. Or head to the Tempio di Iside for some truly incredible fish-based delicacies.
Where to buy groceries in Italy
When it comes to grocery shopping in Italy, there are a few different options. The first option is to go to a large supermarket. These supermarkets often have a wide range of groceries, including international and local brands.
The second option is to go to a local market. These markets often sell fresh produce and other items from local businesses. The third option is to go to a specialty grocery store. These stores usually sell a specific type of food, such as cheese or olive oil. When it comes to gifts to take home, it's best to shop at a specialty store. Delis often sell unique items that cannot be found in supermarkets or local markets.
Street food vs. restaurants in italy
Street food and restaurants in Italy offer different experiences for the hungry traveller. Restaurants are typically sit-down, with a multi-course menu, table service, and often a more formal atmosphere. Street food, on the other hand, is casual and fast, served from a cart or stall and meant to be eaten on the go.
In terms of price, street food is definitely cheaper than restaurant food. Quality matters - some street foods are just as good as what you'd find in a restaurant, while others are just trying to make a quick buck. If you are looking for an authentic taste of local cuisine, a restaurant is the right choice, especially if it is a traditional or family restaurant.
Do Italians eat pizza?
We definitely do and we're very proud of it. If it were me, I'd eat pizza every day. While I love trying different toppings every time, my favorite is always the classic Margherita.
Whether all Italians eat pizza is still up for debate, but it is clear that this delicious dish is enjoyed by many people in Italy and around the world. The Italian way of eating pizza is usually accompanied by a cold beer or soda.
Are you ready to eat in Italy?
Now that you have a general understanding of the Italian way of eating and some useful phrases, it's time to order your food. The most important thing to remember is that Italians love their food and take great pride in their cuisine. There are a few basic rules to remember when dining at restaurants, but once you know them, you can enjoy your Italian dining experience without a hitch.
When in doubt about what and how to eat in Italy, always remember that pizza and pasta are two safe bets. But if you're feeling adventurous, opt for something more opaque!
If you follow these few rules on how to eat in Italy, you'll be on your way to enjoying the best authentic Italian food! Let us know what to do and what not to do when dining in Italy!