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Essential Food Customs In Italy You Need To Know Before Visiting The Country

In the United States, with such a mix of cultures, our collection of food customs vary by household and by restaurant type as well. Even if you are simply visiting a restaurant, it might do you some good to learn that particular culture’s customs regarding what they do or have during a meal.

When it comes to the Italian culture, meals are more experience than simply giving your body nourishment. Here are a couple of Italian food customs we should all be familiar with:

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1. Breakfast Customs

When the Italians are staying in for breakfast, most everyone likes to have an espresso or café latte with their morning meal. You find a mocha machine inside of most Italian households. That same machine is how their espresso is made, but the milk is heated in a saucepan on their kitchen stove.

The typical breakfast meal consists of sweet dried biscuit to accompany the hot drink or Fette biscottate with a side of your chosen marmalade.

Should a pair or larger group leave the home for breakfast, a bar might be the first stop where they partake of a cappuccino or caffe macchiato, both served with foamed milk. One may also order a croissant or stuffed pastry.

2. Lunch in Rome

During the working hours of most Italians’ lives, they will just hit the local pizzeria and chomp a slice before returning back to work. They will have either that or a panino at a bar.

If you’re ever in Rome, you can ‘do as the Romans’ do and take a trip to a local Tavola Calda. It’s essentially a bar or café that serves both hot beverages and hot foods. You can find dishes already prepared or combine your choice of meat, pasta, veggies, and fish.

3. Dinner in Rome

When it comes to having a hearty dinner, most individuals will accompany their friends to a pizzeria for a nice, large pie or other foods they may serve. Some people may invite their friend out to have pizza, but it is simply a way of asking friends out to dinner.

Many Italians participate in what is known as the Sunday Dinner. Depending on the group’s mood, they may have dinner at one of the group’s houses or go out to a restaurant.

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While Sunday Dinner is a one-day activity, it is often one that goes on for most of the day’s second half.
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4. Portion Sizes

It’s pretty common here in the states for the portion sizes to be ‘ridiculous.’ Very few people here have a problem eating enough for two on their own. In my case, a medical condition forces me to eat more than I’m comfortable with to have proper energy for the day.

For the Italian culture, things are far less gluttonous even for those with special diets. When you order something or serve yourself at someone’s home, you should be able to finish the food that is placed onto your plate.

5. Bottled Water vs. Tap Water

Don’t expect a large pitcher of complimentary water when you sit down at a restaurant. Throughout the country of Italy, it’s far more common for the populous to consume bottled water.

If you ask an Italian, they say it’s because of the difference in taste. While the water in Rome is said to be safe, Italians don’t seem to be convinced it is entirely okay to drink. There is a heavy insistence on bottled water, supposedly for the better taste.

You can order either carbonated or flat water while dining at a restaurant. And don’t expect the tap water you order to come with much ice. Italy doesn’t see the big deal with it.

6. After Dinner Coffee

When you finish a meal, the custom is to ask if you would like a cup of espresso, though you would be asked: “would you like some coffee?” The majority of Italians will shy away from having themselves a cappuccino (which is essentially steaming milk).

Cappuccinos and espressos not your thing? If you ask for an American coffee, they’ll know exactly what you want.

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7. The Digestive

This is usually served at the end of the meal, and usually involves selecting an alcoholic drink to finish off the meal. Some restaurants may offer options such as limoncello, grappa, or amaro.

What do you think of the Italian dining customs? Do they seem like something you can get behind? What similarities are there to your culture’s dining customs?

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