A Guide to the Italian Dining Experience
Sometimes it looks like a handbook is needed to navigate yourself through a typical Italian dinner. What’s the dish called before the starters? Why do they just bring small appetizers nobody asked for? Here’s the ultimate guide to eat Italian!
Even if it is not considered part of the effective meal, Italians love to meet in a bar or winery before going to the restaurant, to have a drink such wine, beer or a cocktail. There are usually small appetizers coming with the drink, a few olives, a selection of cheeses and cold cuts, spreads and chips.
At the restaurant the menu will start with the “antipasti” section, the entrees, or starters. In Italy salads are barely considered food, and never antipasti. In Piemonte you will find Vitello Tonnato, Carne cruda (beef carpaccio or tartare), Peperoni e Acciughe, Salame or Lardo, Insalata Russa (very appreciated potato salad), and many more. All these dishes are ready to be served, and if you want to eat right away you should order something from this section. If you order from the following section, you will wait to be served when everyone at the table will be ready to carry on.
The primi are mostly pasta dishes, and in general carbohydrate based meals. You can find filled pasta like ravioli, tortellini, or risotto, gnocchi, lasagne, and polenta in the winter time. Fettuccine Alfredo will not be found, as well as any kind of pasta with chicken, if you are not in a tourist trap. If you order a primo you will be offered grated cheese,to be sprinkled on top of your dish. It isn’t supposed to go on the secondo as well, in many restaurant they will take it away before serving the secondo. If you order a primo with seafood sauce you will not need your grated cheese. If your pasta dish already contains a special kind of cheese, for example pecorino, you should try it without extra cheese. You can always add it after, if you think it’s needed.
Here we come to the meat and fish dishes. This section is always pairing with the following one: the contorni, cooked vegetables and salads. You can pick a secondo and a contorno, and nobody will be staring at you if you mix them in the same dish! Caesar salad is another tourist trap bait, Italians think it’s a french dish.
Last but not least, the dessert. Panna cotta, Bunet, Crostata con marmellata, Torta alla Nocciola, Torta Pere e Cioccolato… it is a very hard decision. You can always ask for a selection of desserts, and enjoy different flavours.
We are famous for the extremely large variety of coffees we count in our cafes. But at the end of the meal you want to get a coffee, ristretto normale o lungo, a dec (decaffeinated), ristretto normale o lungo, or a caffé macchiato. No cappuccino or latte for Italians, after 11am!
After all, the most important rule will always be “Your dish, your choice”, therefore Buon Appetito!