1 Aperitivo – You can have a full dinner of light appetizers (usually pizza, pasta and bread based) when you pay for one drink in a bar or a lounge. In any town in Italy ask the locals about the APERITIVO spot. This is a usually the most swank bar or a lounge that entices people to come for a drink by spreading out an elaborate buffet on the bar starting around 6:30 pm until about 9 pm. It’s the place where you come to meet your friends and have a cocktail or a glass of wine before heading off to dinner. Today with Italy’s recession it has turned into the place you meet your friends to drink and eat for free. The buffet is included for free with the purchase of just 1 drink. Try a Negroni!
2 Non Ubriacarsi! – Don’t drink too much that you are intoxicated. Drinking and not getting drunk is an art in Italy; Intoxication is a taboo. In Italy, Americans are perceived as binge drinkers who drown themselves to the point of ridiculousness.
3 Parmigiano Reggiano – Real Italians don’t put Parmesan cheese on Pizza or on any Fish Pasta. For some reason this is completely taboo in Italy. No! No! No!
4 Cappuccino solo a colazione – Don’t order a cappuccino anytime of day except for in the morning. That’s a sure fire way to get your bill extra expensive. If you order a cappuccino after dinner, they will look at you as if you you must live under a rock.
5 Il Tavolo – There is a famous Italian proverb, “Non si invecchia mai al tavolo.” This means that you don’t grow old while sitting at the table. Dining is just an excuse to sit and talk for hours. Dining in Italy is usually a 2-hour event with course after course spaced out with pauses in between. A typical meal could go like this:
- Start with a glass of Prosecco
- Move on to an Antipasto (appetizer)
- Il Primo, or first course is a pasta or soup
- Il Secondo, is your main dish. Accompany your main dish with side dishes, Contorni
- No meal is complete without un Buon Dolce, dessert
- Order un Espresso to keep you from entering into your Food Coma
- Order una Grappa or un Digestivo to help you digest the enormous meal. I love when they bring you the bottle and leave it on your table as a kind gesture saying you are welcome to remain as long as you like at your table!
6 Il Menu Turistico – In general, never eat in the restaurants in the big square or in restaurants with picture menus… It will not look or taste like the picture… And will usually leave a bad feeling in your wallet! Look for little alleyways and find a quaint restaurant off the beaten path. I also recommend eating in restaurants that do not offer an extra menu in English. Be adventurous, if you don’t have digestive issues or food allergies. You can at least walk around and see something good on someone else’s table and point to that.
7 Pantaloni – Men- put on long pants to go to dinner, and bring a jacket just in case. Fashion is a form of respect. Shorts and flip-flops at dinner are seen as very bad manners.
8 Specialità – Order the “Specialità della casa” the Restaurant’s most famous dish… But don’t order the “Specialità del Giorno,” the daily special bc it’s usually something they are trying to get rid of.
9 Al Bar – Meet someone in a bar. A bar in Italy is a coffee shop/eatery/meeting place open all day where you can have breakfast, lunch, snacks, ice cream, even a casual dinner. My girlfriend in USA was dating a friend of mine in Italy. She was ready to sign him up for Alcoholics Anonymous bc he was always telling her stories about how he was always al bar. A “Bar” in Italy is only second most popular to “La Piazza” or the main Square as a meeting place.
10 La Mancia al Ristorante – In general, you are not required to tip on your meal. Go ahead and leave some spare change ONLY IF you liked your service. NOTE – There is a different price for services standing at a bar than if you get service to a table. Your check includes your service fee.