Yes, it is true, food DOES rule in Italy. But one must also FOLLOW the food rules in Italy as well. Here below are some of the standard rules to help you avoid getting into trouble with the locals on your next visit to Italy.
1. Cappuccino is only for breakfast
Yes, if you try to order a cappuccino after your lunch or dinner, you are going to get the evil eye from your server. Or maybe he will just laugh in your face. Who wants to be laughed at by the hip Italian waiter? Not me! Milk is reserved for morning time and MAYBE a late morning or early afternoon break. After a meal, it is too heavy and rich. And don’t even think of having your children drink milk with their meals!
2. No sandwiches for lunch
Sandwiches are eaten during lunch only as a last resort. Italians want and expect a hot meal for lunch – a QUALITY hot meal. An Italian once told me this: “You know it is a bad day if you have to eat a sandwich for lunch.” But honestly….take a look at these sandwiches….do they really look THAT bad?
3. Do not add parmesan cheese on top of every pasta plate
If you order a seafood pasta dish, don’t even think about looking for the parmesan cheese and heaven help you if you ask for it! Don’t do it! Remember rule one and being laughed at by the Italian waiter? Well, with this rule that waiter is NOT going to be laughing. For the Italians, sprinkling cheese on such a pasta will overpower the dish. DON’T DO IT!
4. No salad dressing
In Italy, salad dressing does not even exist. If you order a salad, the waiter is going to bring: salt, pepper, olive oil and vinegar. If you would like balsamic vinegar, just ask and he will bring that too. The thought of the type of salad dressing Americans are used to would be considered distasteful to an Italian, especially the creamy versions and even worse, the low-fat creamy versions. Simplicity is the mainstay in Italian cooking and eating.
Of note: The salad will come AFTER the main course, not before.
5. Water will only come from a bottle – and will NEVER contain ice
This goes for any cafe, pizzeria or restaurant. Do not expect your server to arrive with four glasses of ice water the minute you and your friends sit down. And speaking ice, the Italians don’t use it very often. You might get a few cubes if you go to McDonald’s, otherwise, drinks are usually not served with ice. Not water, not sodas.
6. Coffee comes AFTER dessert
As I mentioned in rule one, you cannot order a cappuccino after a meal, but you can order coffee (un caffe’) which will be an espresso. Your caffe’ will never come out with dessert. The dessert first, then the coffee.
7. The waiter will only bring your bill when you ask for it
No, he is not being lazy or rude. For the Italian waiter, it is considered impolite to bring your bill before you ask for it because it is viewed as a suggestion for you to leave. So feel free to linger, and when you are ready, just ask for the conto.
8. Enjoy every meal and view it as a pleasure
This is the ultimate rule. Italians not only enjoy their meals but make time to enjoy them. They do not enjoy just dinner and blow through lunch. They do not enjoy long lunches just on special occasions. They enjoy all meals – every day. They take the time to eat a quality meal and to spend time with family or friends in the process.
Here are some entertaining food-related pics:
1. “Have Pasta, Will Travel”: Snapped at the airport in Malpensa, this Italian guy is flying Easyjet, and has a tiny baggage allowance, and chose to take up half the bag with pasta!
2. Church meals at parents’ meeting for first communion: Here when your child is preparing for first communions, confirmations, etc…they will have parent meetings to discuss the details, which of course is going to be followed by a lunch. Here is the FIRST part of the lunch feeding 200 people. Wine, water, pasta. After this came the second course of cheeses, salami, prosciutto, veggies, frittata. After that desserts. After that coffee. The pasta and wine were provided by the church, the rest was brought by the parents.
3. The Italian food pyramid: This one is for diabetics, but still – wine is on the menu.