If spaghetti and meatballs with a glass of red wine from a straw-covered flask is the closest you've come to authentic Italian cuisine, then these quick, step-by-step instructions will help you order like a native when traveling to Italy.
Time Required: 60 minutes
- Restaurants in Italy include the autogrill, or roadside snack bar, the osteria, an informal place, and the trattoria, which is a medium-priced, often family-run eating establishment.
- To make a reservation (which is relatively rare in Italy except at the most expensive restaurants) for two people at 8:00 PM, use this phrase: Vorrei fare una prenotazione per due alle otto.
- In Italy, dishes are usually served on separate plates in a specific order. In order of appearance on a typical menu there is:
- L'antipasto, which literally means "before the meal" and includes hot and cold appetizers such as crostini, bruschetta, and mozzarella in carrozza.
- Il primo, or "first course" usually consisting of pasta, minestrone, risotto, or zuppa (soup).
- Il secondo, or "second course," and is the main course - often meat, poultry, game, or fish.
- Il contorno, or "side dish" which consists of vegetables such as melanzane (eggplant), spinaci (spinach), or insalata mista (mixed salad).
- Il dolce, or "dessert," which includes such favorite sweets as tiramisù, torta della nonna (custard shortbread pie), or zabaglione (custard of egg yolks with wine and brandy).
- To ask for the bill, say: Il conto, per favore. If you want the waiter to keep the change, say: Tenga pure il resto.
- In Italy, those milky concoctions—cappuccino and caffe' latte—are drunk only at breakfast. And it's ESPRESSO! (expresso is a fast train).
- Al dente means "to the tooth," or slightly chewy. It is used to describe pasta and rice. The inside should be somewhat crisp-tender.
- Italians often say Buon appetito! or "Enjoy your meal" when the first course is served, and Salute! or "To your health" when toasting with a drink.
- Both il servizio (service charge/tip) and il coperto (cover charge—for bread and water) are usually included in il conto.
- By Italian law, the gratuity is included in the bill, and extra tipping isn't necessary. If the service warrants it, leave your waiter a little extra.
What You Need
- a hearty appetite
- menu phrasebook
- plenty of euro