I have to admit, it can be a little intimidating to walk into a new restaurant, in a new city, in a foreign country. You may or may not speak the language and although it is probably your overactive imagination- you are sure half of the room just turned to stare as you walked through the door.
Your foreign status is stamped on your forehead and you’d give anything to know what to expect.
I know. I’ve been there.
Last week we discussed Eating Out in Southern Italy-Who Pays What and When and we had some fun comments. This week we are tackling the menu.
If you subscribe to my newsletter, you have already gotten the scoop on the four basic types of restaurants you’ll find in Italy-but you might not know exactly what is expected of you once you are there.
So, here is the deal.
At pizzerias in Italy, each person orders a personal pizza and the group usually orders stuzzicherie-some type of appetizer to split among the group, usually french fries, mozzarella balls, meatballs, etc. Drinks are sometimes split, as well with the waiter bringing a few bottles of water and beer to the table for the group to share. Children’s items aren’t usually on the menu, so feel free to ask for a child-size pizza for your kiddos.
Paninoteche, or restaurants that served grilled sandwiches, operate like pizzerias. Everyone chooses their own sandwich (or if you are like my husband, your own sandwich, or two, or sometimes three) and shares appetizers. I was interested to notice that if you order a sandwich and fries, they’ll bring the fries first-like an appetizer, then follow up with the sandwich.
Trattorie and Ristorante
Trattorie are essentially low-cost restaurants that serve authentic food from their area or region, but when it comes to ordering your meal-they’re basically the same.
On the menu, you’ll notice sections for Antipasto, or appetizers, Primi, or first plates and Secondi, second plates. It is generally expected you will order at least two of these-like an antipasto and primo or a primo and secondo. Some Italians order all three and many waiters will encourage you to do so. But don’t feel pressured-99% of the time I go out, I only order a first plate. Depending on the restaurant’s specialty, my husband might get a first and second plate or we might share an antipasto.
Remember when you are planning your meals in southern Italy that lunch and dinner are served later than in the states. People don’t generally start lunch until at least 1:00, and some restaurants don’t even open their doors before 8:00 at night. Most places will add a per-person cover charge to your bill, you aren’t expected to tip and you can usually hang out after your meal as long as you want … and by all means, don’t threaten the owner.
What are some of the best things you have noticed about eating out in Italy? How is it different from eating out in your home country?