12 tips for eating like a local in Italy
Italian cuisine is one of the main reasons to visit Italy. Damn, that was the whole “eating” part of Eat Pray Love. Master of None had a whole season in Italy, just so Aziz Ansari could eat Italian food. Iron chef Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis, originally from Rome, spent six weeks tasting everything from ice cream to pizza for their mouthwatering new show Discovery +, Bobby and Giada in Italy.
Eating out is a big part of anyone’s Italian vacation. Knowing how to eat like a local in Italy is important because no one wants to stand out like a sore thumb, or worse, inadvertently offend someone. We reached out to Steve Perillo, CEO, President and 3rd Generation Family Owner of Perillo tours, the leading US travel agency in Italy, for expert advice on how to eat like a local in Italy. Here are some tips he shared with us.
1. Sit in cafes and bars
Italian seating customs will be familiar to Americans. âWhen visiting a r Ristorante (restaurant) or pizzeria / trattoria, guests should wait for the host to seat you. In a cafe or bar, customers can sit, âsays Steve.
2. Tips on tips
Steve’s tip for tipping: âYou don’t have to tip restaurants in Italy, but it’s appreciated. If you are sitting or standing for coffee, you can leave one euro, which is more than enough. You can give as much or as little as you like, but tipping is nowhere near the 20 percent that has become the norm in the United States. A good rule of thumb in a restaurant is around one euro per person. Or you can round off the bill. For example, if the invoice is $ 91, you can leave $ 100. Read on for an explanation of the charges you may see on your bill.
Steve says to keep in mind that sometimes there is a load called a coperto. âThis coperto must be clearly stated somewhere on the menu and can range from one to three euros per person. A coperto isn’t a tip, it’s a blanket to offset the cost of bread, oil, salt, and whatever else you might use.
Steve told us, âAnother charge you may be charged is called the servizio. This should also be clearly stated on the menu and should be used for groups of eight or more. The service is a tip, so there is no need to leave anything extra if you were charged these fees.
3. Reservations are recommended
Steve recommends making reservations for dinner, especially in larger cities.
4. Dress for dinner
Italians are quite fashion conscious. While US dress standards are âno shirt, no shoes, no service,â Italians would expand that to say, âno tank tops, no shorts, no flip flops. ”
When we asked about dress codes, Steve replied, âUnless it’s a fancy restaurant that has a dress code, you can wear pants with a nice shirt or blouse. Jeans are also great, unless it’s a fancy restaurant.
5. Don’t butter your bread
In Italy, bread is served with the meal, not as an appetizer. Steve explains why: âA typical Italian meal consists of a first course, ‘il primo’ (pasta or soup); a second course, ‘il secondo’ (meat or fish), served with a side, ‘il contorno’ (vegetables or salad); dessert; and coffee. No pasta dish is complete without the act of “fare la scarpetta”, which literally means make a little shoe and sponge the remaining sauce on your plate. It is a very common ritual in Italy. This is why bread is usually left on restaurant tables. Butter and oil are not served with bread in Italy.
6. Follow these dos and don’ts
Here are some more tips from our guide Steve that you may not know:
- Don’t cut your pasta with a knife
- Fill your neighbor’s glass before yours
- Don’t ask for dressing – oil and vinegar are all you need.
- Do not expect ice cream in your drinks! Italians don’t drink frozen drinks and normally don’t put more than one cube in a drink unless you ask for it.
- Don’t put cheese on seafood pasta.
- Don’t ask for a doggie bag at a restaurant.
7. Don’t order cappuccino after mid-morning
Ordering a cappuccino after a certain time of day is a sure-fire way to squeeze yourself out as a tourist. According to Steve, “Cappuccino is considered breakfast coffee and is never drunk later than mid-morning.”
8. If you ask for a latte, you will get a glass of milk
Steve makes us clear when it comes to Italian coffee: âClassic Italian coffee is espresso, although the term Espresso is hardly ever used in Italy – it is simply called a cafe. Word latte means milk, so if you order a “latte” in an Italian bar, you will get a glass of cold milk. Ask for a coffee with milk if you want the Italian version.
9. At the CafÃ©, Pay Then Order
It might seem backward to Americans, but if you stop at a cafe for a quick coffee, pay at the cashier first, then take your receipt to the barista and give them your order.
10. Don’t buy bottled water
Just bring your own reusable water bottle! As Steve says, âItalian fountains contain some of the coolest water in the country. Rather than buying several bottles of water, do like the locals and bring your own disposable bottle and fill it from these fountains. If you don’t have a water bottle handy, you can plug in the side faucet of most fountains with your thumb and the water will come out from a top faucet for you to drink.
11. Bring something edible as a hostess gift
If you are going to have dinner at someone’s house, do not bring soap or candles as gifts. In Italy, it is customary to bring dessert, wine or prosecco instead.
12. Take The Passegiata After dinner
âThe Passeggiata is a daily ritual that Italians really enjoy,â says Steve. âTake some time later in the day to stroll the streets, chat with friends or shop window.â