Eating out in Italy is one of the greatest pleasures one can ever experience while traveling abroad. The cultural landscape and history of Italy are vast. A very significant part of that involves the cuisine, regardless of the region in which you find yourself. If you are only used to American dining, the whole experience can be quite a bit of a culture shock. There is nothing quite like enjoying a long, singular meal at a true Italian restaurant in Italy. No matter which region you end up in, count on Italians to take food very seriously. From one city to the next, you will find specialties worth trying. Telling your waiter you want to try those specialties is a good start, but what else should you keep you in mind?
Paying For Water
In American restaurants, we generally expect a glass of water as soon as we sit down. In Italy, and this holds true for much of Europe, you will be given the choice between still and sparking water. Regardless of what you choose, you will have to pay for it.
Most of us are used to a three-course dinner of an appetizer, an entrée, and then some dessert. In Italy, it starts with the shared appetizer, which is also known as antipasti. You will then have the primo course, the first main course, followed by the secondo, which is the second main course. A primo course usually consists of soup or pasta, while the secondo course will likely be a meat or fish. Your contorno side will be vegetables, and then you get dessert.
The menu is likely going to be dependent on where you happen to be. Restaurants tend to focus on what is local, and it is unlikely that you’ll find restaurants offering a vast array of options from other parts of the world.
If you’re used to elaborate mixed drinks, understand that most Italian restaurants tend to focus on beer, straight liquor, and wine. If there are mixed drinks on the menu, it is probable that they will be Italian specialties. Negroni is a good example.
Another consistency among Italian restaurants, regardless of where you happen to be, is the arrival of the bill. Understand that if you have to ask for it by asking for the “il conto.” Unless you ask the waiter, you could wind up waiting ages. Even if you happen to be the last person in the restaurant, your waiter may still wait for you to ask for the bill, before they actually bring it to you.
If you don’t want to go to a restaurant to eat, hit up the local bar. Unlike other parts of the world, Italian bars serve more than bar snacks and alcohol. Many people go to the bar in their neighborhood for their morning coffee and pastry. Bars in Italy tend to offer a great range of items along those lines, including sandwiches.
If you are in the mood for something formal, your options are essentially going to come down to three possibilities. You have osterias, which are best described as casual to semi-formal. The second option are known as trattorias. These can be described best as causal restaurants. Finally, you have ristorantes. These are formal restaurants.
Having A Great Culinary Experience In Italy
If you happen to be traveling to Italy in the summer, don’t forget that most Italians prefer to take their meals later in the day than what you might be used to. Between lunch and dinner, it is likely that many of the restaurants in your area are going to be closed. Actually, most shops throughout Italy close for a handful of hours in the afternoon. If you want to do any shopping, make sure you take care of everything during the morning hours. Otherwise, you may find yourself out of luck!
Italy has much to offer in the way of cuisine. Have a good time discovering that for yourself and keep our tips in mind!