Don't Do This When Dining in Italy (Slideshow)
October 29, 2013
Tips on how to eat like a local in Italy
1. Don’t ask for 'fettuccine Alfredo'
This dish really doesn’t exist in Italy, or at least not under that name. "Fettuccine Alfredo" reportedly got its name from a restaurant in Rome, where the dish originates from. But what got lost in translation as the American tourists who visited the restaurant in the 1950s brought the dish back to the U.S., was that the original "Alfredo" doesn't include cream, just butter and Parmesan cheese.
2. Don’t expect a big breakfast
The typical Italian breakfast is a strong espresso and a sweet pastry, caffè e cornetto. If you really want your hearty egg breakfast and don't care about looking like an obvious tourist, try asking for a diner (yes, like the American diner), something that probably can be found in most larger cities.
3. Don’t order a latte (or cappuccino) after 11 a.m.
Ordering a "latte" literally means ordering milk in Italian. In general, Italians prefer drinking un caffè — a shot of espresso — and this is also what you will get if you just order a coffee. But if you really want your latte, order a caffellatte, or aim for a cappuccino. Cappuccinos are more common in Italy than lattes, but are often only enjoyed in the morning. You can of course still get a cappuccino after 11 a.m., but be prepared to be thought of as un turista.
4. Don’t order 'pepperoni' pizza
In Italy, pepperoni is really not what you think it is. If you order a "pepperoni pizza" in a restaurant in Italy, chances are you will be asked to clarify your order, and there is little chance that your waiter is thinking about a topping remotely similar to the thinly sliced dry sausage that you have in mind. In Italy "peperoni" (with one "p") is the plural of bell pepper, and "pepperoni" is referred to here as salami. So if it’s "pepperoni" (with a double "p") you want and not strips of peppers, look out for "pizza al salamino," "pizza diavola," or "pizza calabrese."
5. Drink wine or water with a meal
Coca-Cola, ginger ale, juice, and milk are all good drink choices, but probably not if you're looking to dine like a local in Italy. Here, a bottle of sparkling or still water and a bottle of wine are what are traditionally offered to accompany your dinner. Clearly, no one will deny you your soda, but with most restaurants having a decent or even very good house wine, why even think about going with something else?
6. Don’t ask for salad dressing
Instead, use the olive oil and vinegar often already placed on your dinner table. Some tourist restaurants may have ranch and French dressing, but after trying the mix of authentic Italian olive oil and balsamic vinegar, you might not miss the common creamy American dressings anymore.
7. Don’t ask for butter with the bread
In Italy, bread is almost always provided to you at the beginning of a meal, but not with a side of butter, or a cup of fancy dipping oil. If you want to enjoy your loaf prior to the meal, sprinkle on some olive oil for flavor, or do it the most authentic way: save the bread for the end of the meal, when you can use it as a sponge to soak up the leftover sauce and scraps your fork can’t seem to get.
8. Ask for the bill (and remember: you don’t have to tip)
The waiter will almost never bring the bill until you specifically ask for it, simply by saying il conto per favore. When the check arrives at your table, remember, that no tipping is needed in Italy. Only in cases when the service was exceptionally good are you expected to leave a small tip (think: dining in a Michelin-star restaurant, or just having an outstanding server).