I think we all know that when it comes to Italians and Italian culture, food is one of the few things that immediately comes to mind. Pizza, pasta, pizza, pasta, you know the deal.
However, what people don’t always understand is that beyond just eating, Italians have a lot more rules when it comes to getting down on your favorite dishes. To save you from making the numerous faux pas I’ve made and have seen countless other tourists and newcomers make once they venture off into this city I’ve created a short list.
1. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served and expected to be eaten at specific times of the day. For example, breakfast is served from 8-10am and is typically something very light.
Think a coffee and cornet (or croissant, if your not yet familiar with the Italian name). Next, lunch is strictly served from 12-2pm. If you try to get a lunch later than this time be prepared to not be able to find anything to eat, unless you head into an extremely touristy restaurant which of course will most likely charge you an insane amount for food that is just not that good. Last, dinner is from 8-11pm. If you attempt to eat any earlier, you’ll be encroaching on aperitivo, or happy hour, and trust me you don’t want to miss out on that.
2. NEVER drink a cocktail with pasta.
It’s just not done and someone will question your sanity. I’m kidding but just be prepared for your waiter/waitress to give you a look and then proceed to ask you if you’re sure you want to have that Moscow mule with your carbonara? This also applies to Coke. You know what, only drink water or wine with pasta. That's it.
3. Speaking of pasta, chicken mixed with a pasta is a big NO NO.
If you’re an American you may be disappointed to realize that your fave chicken Alfredo is not actual Italian food but a dish entirely created by Italian Americans. It’s not a bad thing, just don’t expect to find it here. If by some chance you do see a restaurant serving Chicken Alfredo, walk the other direction, you’ve just found a tourist trap.
4. A cappuccino is only acceptable in the morning.
So, no, don’t even think about asking for one in the afternoon and definitely not at night.
5. Don't ask for butter for your bread.
Get used to eating your bread with olive oil because bread and butter is just not the way it goes in Rome. However, if you’re lucky you may find a waiter who has a secret stash of butter in the fridge. Otherwise, it’s most likely that they just don’t have any butter around. Matter of fact, save that bread for when your meal arrives. You’ll be happy when you partake in “scarpetta”, or pick up any remain pasta sauce with said bread.
6. Don't ask for salad dressing.
Salad dressing doesn’t exist here so if you’re used to pouring Ranch or Italian dressing on your legumes, you’ll need to get used to using a bit of olive oil or vinegar and salt instead. It may taste a bit bland at first but it’s not so bad. Plus, it’s a much healthier option than any of the pre-made salad dressings.
7. Condiments in general are not popular in Italy.
You’ll learn that simplicity is key when it comes to the ingredients in Italian food. So if you’re planning on asking for ketchup, you’re asking to be met with extreme horror.
8. Walking with your food is simply not done.
Although, I don’t blame you if you’re hungry and you just don’t care. Just know that you’ll most likely be the only one chowing down on that pizza or sandwich as you walk around town. Unless, of course, you run into a fellow foreigner.
9. Don’t ask for a pepperoni pizza!
Ask for a pizza diavola instead. Peperoni (with one ‘p’) in Italian is simply the plural form for the word pepper. Meaning, you’ll actually get little bell peppers placed on your pizza, which I imagine is not what you were expecting.
10. Don’t walk into the restaurants with someone is standing outside asking you to come in.
Seriously, just don’t do it. I know you’re tired, you’ve been walking all day but the truth is the best food is NOT where the people are not hounding you to come eat their overpriced crappy pizza. Walk the few extra minutes and look for the places that are a bit more hidden. You’re much more likely to have an incredible meal.