The Ultimate Guide to Eating like a Local in Italy


Italian cuisine is as important as any other culture. To truly experience Italy, it is important to learn about the traditions and customs surrounding Italian cuisine. You have to try all the foods.

But “Italian cuisine” is somewhat misleading. You will find differences in food and traditions wherever you travel in Italy. It is evident that the Italian cuisine in Venice is very different from what you will find in Sicily.

It is quite possible for Northern and Southern Italy to have different cultural practices and typical dishes.

The differences in climate and seasonality are key factors in the distinctive food of each region. Italy insists on its DOP (Denominazione Di Origine Protetta), which translates into Protected Designation of Origin. This ensures that the products are grown locally and protected from contamination.

Is it possible to find out how the locals eat, and what their food culture is? I’m preparing the goods!

Coffee Culture

It’s quite unusual to drink coffee in Italy. It is possible to order your Starbucks grande latte “to go” every afternoon. This particular order has a few non-Italian aspects.

First, you should know that milk-based coffees can only be consumed with breakfast. There are several theories as to why this is so.

Some say that drinking milk after eating can cause stomachache. Some people believe it’s because milk should be drunk as soon as it arrives from the milkman so it doesn’t spoil. No matter what, most people won’t order a cappuccino at the end of the day.

Literally, the side-eye is what you will get.

Second, baristas expect you to have your coffee at the counter or at your table. This means that you won’t be able to take your coffee with you.

Italian Foods

Italian breakfasts typically include brioche (which is actually a croissant), and a cup of coffee (typically a cappuccino). You’ll also find other foods wherever you go. Gelato with grappa, cheese, grappa, and limoncello are just a few of the many foods you’ll find. It is very simple to eat and drink silly!

If you are planning to visit Rome, make sure to check out this incredible food tour!

Regional specialties

Northern Italy: Fish, Pasta, Tiramisu (it’s the birthplace! ), and Prosecco, which is the birthplace of Spritz Aperol.

Southern Italy: Pasta and Pizza (Napoli is the birthplace), Caponata and Eggplant Parmigiana

Sardinia: The Suckling Pig (as a large roast).

Sicily: Caponata and Arancini

About the Meal

The server will ask you if you would like acqua naturale (still water) or frizzante water (carbonated water). It will be obvious that water is not served cold. You’ll need to request ice.

The wine is also a popular dinner drink. That will be my next question! You will usually order by the glass, bottle, or both. However, you may also find 1-liter and 0.5-liters in rosso (red), or bianco(white).

No matter what drink you choose, be it soda, water, or wine, do not expect to get free refills.

Meal Courses

There are many options when it comes to ordering dinner. You should remember that Italian meals don’t always come as one dish. Locals prefer to order multiple courses, which is why they tend to order many, many courses. Here’s an example:

Aperitivo: These are your first few sips to “prepare yourself for a meal.” You can have a tapa with olives or meatballs.

Antipasti: Your starter. It will often be a small plate with meat and cheese.

Primi: This is the first course in hot food. It is traditionally a vegetarian pasta dish.

Secondi: This is the second course that normally includes meat or seafood.

Contorini is essentially a side-dish that’s served with your second meal. It is usually vegetables that are served with the meat.

Insalata: You might choose to have a small salad after you finish your second course.

Formaggi E Frutta – Hello cheese and fruit combinations!

Dolce: Have you saved room for dessert?

Caffe: Italians love to end their meal with a cup of coffee.

Digestivo: Some alcoholic drinks such as limoncello and amaro are thought to aid digestion.

How to dine at someone’s home: Etiquette

There are some small points of etiquette that you should consider if you are invited to a dinner party at an Italian home.

It is better to eat at the same pace as your host. You should not eat more than you can eat. A lot of food left on your plate can be a sign that you don’t like it.

Sunday lunches are an important meal in every Italian’s life. Bring a dessert if you are invited. Any item from the local bakery, or a tub full of gelato for sharing is appreciated.

Tipping + The Bill

Tipping is not expected. Most people will tip a little bit to help even out their bills, but not more. For a bill of EUR37.85, leave EUR40. You might leave 10% if you’re at a top-end restaurant to thank them for exceptional service. However, the service is usually included on the receipt or menu.

It is important to remember that the restaurant will not give you the bill after you have finished eating. Or you’ll be there all night. This is something I really enjoy. It’s part of the culture to slow down and enjoy the food and company.

You can request the bill by saying “Il conto per favore.”

Ordering Pasta

Traditional Italian pasta dishes will not contain meat unless you are in the north where fish is more common. It will be difficult to find spaghetti and meatballs, as well as fettuccine alfredo or chicken parmesan.

There are also standard combinations of sauce and pasta. We might put farfalle or penne with whatever sauce is available, but the Italians would create specific combinations.

This is a great breakdown of the pairings.

Are you ready to say “ciao!” This is all you need before you go on your first trip to Italy.

What Italian food do you want to try? They are all there! You’re not wrong! Please share your thoughts with me about Italian food culture.

Rome Food Tour & Pizza Making

Walking in Rome with Walks of Italy, I was able to take a food tour and make pizza. This is, my friends, the best way of discovering a city.

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