It’s no secret that Italy has fantastic food. It’s not just the pasta, or Roman pizza, or wine that make the food scene so good; it’s the actual art of eating in Italy that takes food to another level.
I have been wanting to go to Italy for as long I can remember. Parita and Mary Beth recently visited and their posts got me even more excited. We were able to spend four full days in Italy, and most of that was spent in Rome. In the future, I’d love to visit different regions in the country because there is so much to see, learn and of course, eat.
I feel like we only scratched the surface when it came to food and we went into it without any knowledge of how Italians eat. Let me save you from the mistakes we made and clue you in on how to eat like an Italian.
- You don’t start your meal with a salad.
Our first lunch in Italy was a pizza, naturally. We asked the waiter if we could start with a salad and he looked a bit confused and then realized what we were asking. He suggested the antipasto bar, which offered marinated eggplant and mushrooms, fresh mozzarella, salami and cold vegetables. It was the anti-salad and it was perfect.
- Skip the bread
If you’ve ever had Italian American food you know that bread is basically a staple at the table. This is not the case in Italy. In fact, if you order a pasta dish (which is considered a primo), you will not get bread with your meal. The reason? Bread doesn’t go with pasta. Simple as that.
- Wait a Secondo, here comes the bread
If you eat the meal properly, after your primo dish, which usually consists of a meatless pasta, you’ll order a secondo. The secondo is generally a meat dish and this is where the bread basket comes in. Bread will be served with meat.
- Say Yes to Dessert
Italians don’t eat out as often as Americans and when they do, it’s a treat that includes dessert. Since the portion sizes are not out of control huge, you’ll actually have room for dessert, so enjoy that gelato, tiramisu or panna cotta.
- Slow down and digest your food
A meal in Italy always ends with a bitter coffee because the caffe helps you digest all of the delicious food you consumed. Italian coffee is high on my list of things I don’t think I can live without post honeymoon. In fact, I haven’t had much American coffee since I returned because I miss my daily doppio so much.
In America, we tend to rush through our meals. When we dine out, our waiter/waitress hovers as our meal ends. “Would you like the check?” is commonly heard. In fact, we get antsy if the check isn’t on the table as we take our last bites.
In Italy, you will not get the check before your plate is empty. You won’t even get the check after your meal is complete. In Italy, you get the check if you ask for it. Otherwise, you’re free to enjoy your meal for two or three hours. Whatever it takes.
Italians love and enjoy life. They place an emphasis on living that we don’t see as often in the United States. It made me really yearn for a lifestyle that focuses the wealth of living vs. earning.
I really took that to heart and I’ve decided that enjoying food should be a serious and pleasurable thing. Yes, we eat to live, but once in a while, it feels good to be reminded that we can also live to eat.
Your turn: what is your favorite pasta dish? Have you visited Italy?