Tips for Eating in Italy
Summertime means travel time for many people and with the dollar strong against the Euro right now, it is an ideal time to visit Italy. One of the things to look forward to is of course the food, local, regional food. Where to eat can seem like a daunting task, given the many restaurants in any city but here are some guidelines to help you make wise choices.
1) The menu for any establishment should be posted; avoid those restaurants that feature tourist menus. They are expensive and not indicative of local cooking. Go deep into the belly of the locale you find yourself in, meaning, eat where the locals go and where little English is spoken for there you will find traditional foods. Small establishments known as trattorie or osterie are often family run and offer local cooking at its best plus they are less expensive than in large city ristoranti.
2) Eat like the Italians; do not just order just a salad or two first courses. Order a first course (primo piatto), usually pasta, soup or rice) and a main course (il secondo), usually meat, fish or poultry.
3) Don't order coke, cappuccino or some other soft drink to go with your dinner; Italians drink wine but if you don’t, just ask for water, either natural (natural) or sparkling (frizzante). If you want tap water (I do not recommend this) ask for “aqua dal rubinetto.” Don’t ask for ice.
4) Wait staff are professionals in Italy and should be treated as such.
5) You do not need to include a tip (servizio) when paying your bill; it is already included as is the charge for bread for which you paid a pane e coperto (cover charge). This should be clearly listed on the menu. If you feel that the service you received was extra special or the wait staff went out of their way to please you, feel free to leave a little extra something.
6) Ask for your bill to be itemized. This is known as “il conto dettagliato” And make sure you get a real receipt, not a piece of paper with hand scribbled notation of your order.
7) Dining in Italy is a wonderful experience but knowing some of the rules will make it even more pleasurable.