The rules of eating in Italy explained by the locals (2023)

When it comes to Italian food, everyone has their opinions, their recipes and their irrefutable truths. The truth is that Italian cuisine is one of the most imitated cuisines in the world along with Chinese. It's also often one of the cuisines people know the least about, again along with Chinese. And it's so little known to the world that foreigners are often disappointed when they come to Italy and want what they think is authentic Italian food. in this guideWe explain the rules to follow if you want to eat like an Italian in Italy.

Being Italian and constantly traveling means thatwe have seen almost everything: Aside from the regularly recurring carbonara porta, we've seen people eating garlic bread pretending it's really Italian, people using ketchup instead of ragù to flavor their pasta. Once we were served a piece of fried chicken on top of a bowl of spaghetti under the pretense that it was "pamesan chicken'was something we had to know and love because'It's Italian, 100% Italian.“. And we could go on and on and on...

It is hard to please an Italian when it comes to food and we know that we are extremely sensitive when it comes to Italian cuisine. The reason why is simple and straightforward:Food is one of the greatest characteristics of Italy,something that distinguishes the country from others and its peculiarity is that it is always prepared with genuine and fresh ingredients. If that doesn't happen, or if the food is completely rearranged but still served in Italian, all Italians will be upset.

What are the food rules in Italy?

Here are some rules on howeat in italyor at least how we Italians eat. If you follow these rules, whether you are in Italy or abroad, you certainly won't provoke hysterical reactions.

Never order a risotto as a starter

It is not uncommon to go to a dinner party outside of Italy and order a risotto as a starter. In Italy, risotto is a (big) main dish because it is rich and flavorful. Not even a salad or anything else is served - we just eat our risotto with a nice glass of wine!

Pasta and salad don't go together.

Italians are proud of their pasta, and as for risotto, they don't serve it with anything else. Not even with salad or fries! The pasta is a main course and is enough to satisfy a hungry stomach.

There is no such thing as chicken carbonara.

Chicken carbonara is something we have never heard of. It is said to be made with cream, Parmesan, peas and chicken, but this pasta is not from Italy. In Italy there is only one pasta carbonara, the traditional one with eggs and bacon!Get the recipe to make the unique Pasta Carbonara.

Chicken Parmesan is an unknown item.

Like chicken carbonara, chicken parmesan just doesn't exist in Italy. It was made in the USA and has never been imported or exported from Italy. We suggest you don't try to order a chicken parmesan in Italy unless you're in the mood for a good joke.

Fettuccine Alfredo is not a traditional dish

This pasta seems to have come from Italy, but Italians don't eat it anymore (or maybe never have!). If it's considered a proper and complete Italian dish in the US, Italians consider fettuccine alfredo something you can't order in a restaurant and something to eat when you're sick.Read the story and recipe for Fettuccine Alfredo.

Italians only drink wine or water with meals.

The only exception to this rule is if you can eat pizza and have a soda or beer. Never order a cappuccino with pasta or a tea with a steak. No one will refuse to serve you whatever you want, but the disappointment on your waiter's face will be almost unbearable.

Also read:The best Italian wines for beginnersS

Pepperoni pizza is not a pepperoni pizza

Even if you're used to having meat in yoursPizza, in Italy pepperoni is the plural form of paprika. People in Italy don't know what a pepperoni pizza is. So if you want a pepperoni pizza you have to order it."Diavola-Pizza".

Mozzarella cheese is different from Italian mozzarella.

Mozzarella cheese is a dry cheese that you can slice and eat, Italian mozzarella is a fresh cheese that has the milk literally spilling onto your plate. You may not understand the difference from words alone, but once you get a chance to taste real Italian mozzarella, you'll immediately understand what we mean.

Italians don't eat bread with pasta.

Pasta and bread are eaten separately even if they are served together at the same dinner/lunch. Italians don't serve bread with oil and vinegar or with butter. The bread is eaten together with sausages and cheese or also as a starter/appetizer.

Grated cheese is not added to fish dishes.

This is a strange rule for foreigners, but we don't mix. Seafood doesn't go well with cheese, you can ask your server for some Parmesan cheese along with your spaghetti alle vongole, but you might get a weird look if you ask for it. And, to keep it a secret, not so secret, Parmesan cheese on fish kills fish!

Marinara sauce does not exist in Italy

Although Subway has gotten all the rage with this “Italian” sauce and uses it on their sandwiches, don't order pasta with marinara sauce in Italy because they don't exist. What we have is a marinara sauce that is used for pizza alla marinara, which is actually a simple tomato, garlic, olive oil, and oregano pizza. Sorry to all you Friends fans out there!

Never ask for salad dressing

Salad dressing does not exist in Italy - we have vinegar and olive oil that we use together or separately to flavor our salad. Olive oil and a good vinegar should enhance the flavor, so salad dressings and similar spices have no place in Italy.

The myth of Mac&Cheese

Although, according to myth, this pasta was imported from Italy in the 18th century, Italians do not eat macaroni and cheese. Something similar to this paste is called "poorly made noodles"but not really comparable. If you are looking for a box of pre-cooked Mac&Cheese in a supermarket in Italy, you will never find it: if we want to eat pasta with cheese, we make it at home..

Coffee is an after-dinner affair.

Coffee is never taken with the main meal at lunchtime or in the evening, but always an espresso without milk. Coffee with milk (cappuccino and latte) is reserved for breakfast or snack (merienda), but is never drunk with the main meal.

Spaghetti never cut

Except for small children, cutting spaghetti is almost a criminal offense in Italy. Spaghetti is rolled on a fork and eaten as is. Older people used to use a spoon to roll their fork and spaghetti, but that's not very common anymore. After all, we've been eating spaghetti all our lives! [Side note: we don't even use a knife to eat pasta because we just don't cut the pasta and when we need to cut it we use the fork.)

There is no such thing as spaghetti bolognese.

Pasta al ragù is what we eat in Italy and we have never heard of spaghetti Bolognese or Bolognese. Ragù is essential and is also used forlasagna. It takes hours, has amazing ingredients, and is used to flavor pasta. Bolognese is just something that is made outside of Italy, so you will never find it in Italy.

White and red wines serve different purposes.

In Italy we pay a lot of attention to how we serve wine and how we pair it. Traditionally, white wine goes well with fish; red wine accompanies the meat; White wine is usually served chilled, red wine is served at room temperature. We never add ice to wine, and neither should you!

The appetizer is serious business

The aperitif is something serious for us Italians: we could endlessly discuss why aperitif time is one of the most important parts of the day, or at least of the weekend. A goodAperol Spritzwe drink together with wine or prosecco; A drink is always accompanied by “stuzzichini”, small appetizers that in many cases represent a dinner.

Last but not least

take your time

Italians love to take time to eat, and a meal is one of the most important forms of socializing and gathering. A meal is never eaten at a coffee table in front of the television, and it is never rushed. If you want to eat like an Italian, take your time, don't rush and enjoy every moment of your lunch or dinner.

About the Author
Veruska anconitano
Veruska is a multilingual SEO and localization consultancy. She is an accredited journalist and certified sommelier. She also won an award for the world's best food travel journalist. She is co-owner of TheFoodellers and other websites.

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