This is a brief guide about the Italian way of eating, avoiding unforgivable (for an Italian) mistakes.
If you have ever travelled in Italy, you have probably, even if accidentally, disgusted an Italian observer while you were eating, because is very easy to break some sacred rule about food in this country.
The typical Italian breakfast
Italian food is delicious, but to experience it in the best way, you should be aware of some habits. The very first step to learn how to eat like an Italian is to know what you should eat depending on the moment of the day and in which order.
Unlike many other cuisines, the Italian one follows some strict rules about timing that is there is a category of food for any meal and course.
Meals are divided in breakfast, lunch and dinner. You have breakfast when you get up in the morning; obviously, lunch is around 1 pm, dinner at 8 pm.
The typical Italian breakfast is not a proper meal, but it is usually composed by sweets combined with a stimulating beverage such as coffee or tea.
Brioche and cappuccino is the paradigmatic breakfast at the bar, when most Italians at home can have bread and jam, biscuits, slices of cakes, cornflakes, fruit juice and coffee – espresso or mocha.
What an average Italian doesn’t eat when he’s still sleepy and fighting to start a new day is salty foods: breakfast is usually quick, sweet and energizing. In the Italian families nobody cooks for breakfast, burner is on only for the mocha, tea or milk.
Taste the Italian lunch
At 1 pm is time for lunch, and the lesson about how to eat the Italian way begins to be slightly more complicated. Lunch and dinner are divided in four courses: entrees, first course, second course and dessert.
You may eat only the first course or only the second, but you will never mix them, or eat them in a different order (as their names say!).
Pasta, risotto, lasagne are first courses; dishes with fishes and meat, vegetables and eggs are second courses. Along with second courses you have side dishes, generally vegetables and salads.
For an Italian is unthinkable to eat pasta and salad together, nor serve them on the same plate, unlike in many other countries, where it is normal to serve all the food at the same time.
During the meal Italians drink water, wine and possibly soft drinks: they don’t drink fruit juices nor milk or hard liquors. At the end of the lunch Italians usually drink an espresso, never a cappuccino.
In general Italians don’t mix foods: they love clean and well-defined savours.
Enjoy your dinner in Italy
At 8 pm is time for dinner, which is organized exactly like the lunch, with the difference that after dinner you can have an “amaro” (bitters) instead of coffee. The amaro is digestive liquor.
To have an aperitif at the bar (not at the restaurant) before dinner is quite common, especially in Northern Italy. The typical aperitifs are Martini, spritz (Aperol or Campari, white wine and soda) or white wine.
What about pizza? Pizza is a complete lunch or dinner, makes your life easier.