Dining in another country can be intimidating - You're not very familiar with the cuisine, you're not super fluent in the language and before you know it the table beside you is shooting you questionable expressions because let's face it: You're a tourist. Lucky for you - We compiled a list of The 8 Essential Italian Dining Tips you need before you board your flight to Italy. The country with beautiful architecture, incredible history, and vivacious personalities; doesn't have to be so hard to dine in any longer.
1) Late Dinners
It is accustomed to eat dinner late in Italy; the further South you go, expect to eat dinner later than you're most probably used to. Dinner is the country's most important meal; a later meal means a hungrier crowd more likely to eat a fuller meal. Get ready to splurge and experience a true Italian feast after a long day of sightseeing and exploring.
2) Keep your eyes peeled for il coperto
Before making your reservations for your first fancy sit down Italian restaurant, be sure to check for the il coperto aka the cover charge per person at the table. This may show up on your bill as the bread charge or simply a cover charge. While Italy has passed legislation deeming this as illegal, many restaurants continue to slide this charge onto bills. Ridiculous we know but if it makes you feel any better, don't worry - Italians are being charged this too.
3) Bread, per favore!
Not all restaurants will serve you bread before your antipasto - Unless the restaurant caters to a majority of tourists only then you might find bread with oil waiting for you. However, avoid stuffing yourself with bread before your main meal. Italians don't eat bread with their pasta, instead once they're done they clean their plate and scarpetta the remaining delicious sauce. Way better than slapping on butter if you ask us.
4) When you're ready - Ask for the bill
What's nice about dining in Italy is that there is absolutely no feeling of being rushed out. Unlike at home, the waiter will never bring you your bill or suggest it unless you ask for it. La dolce vita e molto semplice...So once you're ready to part ways from the restaurant and head out for a late night stroll, ask your waiter for il conto.
5) Italy's daily riposo
The opening hours of markets, restaurants and little shops work around the country's very own "siesta" most commonly referred to as their riposo (rest). If you're a big eater, we suggest to get a move on to eat both breakfast and lunch as soon as possible so you won't feel regretful when everything closes at 3. And yes this means more or less everything. Take this time to enjoy a stroll to the local piazza and people watch until you forget about that grumbling tummy of yours.
6) I'll just have the salad...
Many tourists make the common mistake of ordering insalata verde, green salad, thinking its a fully dressed salad until it arrives to their surprise in just a bowl as plain romaine lettuce. Insalata verde is usually ordered as a side dish to put in your sandwich and not to eat on its own. The salad you can eat on its own that's dressed with other ingredients is called insalata mista.
7) Don't eat at any restaurants named after famous landmarks
Two words - Tourist trap. Anything named Ristorante DaVinci or Trattoria Vaticano is a restaurant you want to steer clear of. Anything named after a famous monument is a tourist trap where the food definitely doesn't measure up to Italian quality or the steep prices. Another tip to avoiding these dining experiences is avoiding restaurants in close proximity to famous piazzas, monuments or landmarks. You'll thank us later for helping you dodge them.
8) Coffee is always the finale
Coffee is served strictly only after the entire meal has been consumed. The reason being that coffee is the last drink to end the meal in order to help with digestion. Refuse to follow this etiquette, then you'll welcome a lot of disapproving frowns and furrowing brows your way. If you're in a bar; it's insulting to the barista if you wash your espresso down with a glass of water - this can come off as you not enjoying the taste of the espresso.