|Joined: 17 Oct 2005|
|Location: Tampa, Florida||
| Posted: Tue Aug 22, 2006 9:17 am
|A guide to eating in Italy
Italians don't eat to live...Italians live to eat! Once you have a taste of their cuisine, you will know why. Many people mistakenly believe that Italian cuisine consists of only pizza and spaghetti. Nothing could be further from the truth!
Italian cuisine is very varied and very regionalized. That's one of the beautiful things about Italy is that visiting each region is almost like visting a new country. The cuisine in Bologna (region of Emilia-Romana) is a lot different than what you would find in Sicily.
There are many different types of eating establishments in Italy. I recommend that you try as many as you can.
Meal times are usually around 2PM for lunch and around 8PM for dinner time. Dinner can even start later down south around Naples or Palermo.
A full Italian meal (excluding breakfast)
--will usually run the gamut from: Antipasta – Appetizers
Primo piatto (First course -usually pasta or rice)
Secondo piatto (Second course - usually meat, fish or chicken)
Contorni - Vegetables
Insalata - Salad
Dolci - Desserts
Consequently, a dinner ("cena") can last for a few hours. You will always have to ask for your check in an Italian restaurant. A good Italian waiter (or waitress) will never bring the check without you asking for it (unless it is closing time). With that in mind, everything is usually very carefully made with the finest ingredients. They don't rush things. If you are in a hurry, you do not want to eat in an Italian restaurant. But since you are here for vacation, just relax and try to enjoy "la dolce vita", or the good life, that the Italians are experts at doing.
Tipping: Usually the restaurant will include the "servizio" in the bill. However, it is not uncommon to leave some change on the table, (or maybe even 1 Euro per person) if the service was exceptionally good. At a bar, it is customary to leave 10 or 20 Eurocents on the counter after you are done.
For Italian households, lunch ("pranzo") is usually the main meal of the day which starts around 1 or 2PM. However, in the northern industrialized cities such as Rome and Milan, dinner ("cena") is becoming the most important meal of the day for working families.
Italian breakfasts ("la colazione") are usually not much to brag about....they will start their day with an espresso and a croissant-type pastry called a "cornetto". You will have a hard time finding a breakfast consisting of eggs and pancakes in Italy, as you would in the United States or Canada or even Great Britain.
Let us, of course, not forget about the famous Italian wine. Italy is the world's leading producer of wine. Not only does it produce and export more than any other country, it also offers the greatest variety types, colors and flavors. Some of the vines around Rome have been producing wine for many centuries. But the art of wine-making itself goes back thousands of years in Italy. However, it was not until the 1960's that a nation-wide program regulating the industry was enacted by the Italian government. An indication of DOCG (Denonominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita) will ensure that the wine has passed the strictest standards by the government. However, wine tastes are very subjective, and that label will not always ensure the best tasting wine. Many of the table or house wines ("vino di casa") served by restaurants will also be very good. I suggest that you experiment with as many wines as possible. And of course, don't drink and drive in Italy. They have tough laws as well.
And when it comes to ice cream, or "gelato," Italy has some of the finest that there is to offer. You can savor just about any fruit, flavor or combination in "gelato" form.
So there you have it....tips to eating in Italy. It is usually not a good idea to start a diet when you visit the lovely country of Italy. But it is a chance of a lifetime to savor some of the best cuisine on the planet. And if you eat sensibly, and use your feet as a form of transportation, you may come back from Italy and step on the scale and be pleasantly surprised.
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