While food is universally loved, we like to think that we are extra passionate about it here in Italy. For us, it means so much more than putting something on a plate – food signifies family, celebrating, a way of expressing love and care. The way we dine is a little bit different from the rest of the world. Here are some of the key differences between Italian dining culture and eating out elsewhere!
Dining in Florence is all about enjoying a leisurely meal…emphasis on the leisurely. Dinners can last up to a couple of hours and Italians eat later – dinner service in Italy typically begins after 7:30pm; restaurants get really busy around 8:30-9pm. Try to secure reservations before you dine out, especially during the high tourist season (April – October).
Italians rarely eat just one course. Instead, you’ll find that they’ll typically order several courses. The traditional Italian courses start with appetizers (antipasti), then progress to pasta/rice dishes and soups (primi) and meat/fish (secondi) with side dishes (contorni) and ends with desserts (dolce).
Remember that Italians drink wine but in moderation! Some for lunch, a glass with an aperitif, some for dinner – but never overdo it in a single sitting. Follow their example and make sure you balance your wine intake with lots of refreshing water.
Historically, a coperto, or a nominal fee per head, covered the cost of bread and water. Nowadays, Italian restaurants may or may not charge a coperto, but if you feel like the service is deserving, you can tip as much or as little as you would like. It is entirely up to you and in no way expected- the waitstaff are all paid full wages and don’t depend on gratuities as a source of income.
Enhance your dining experience by chatting up your waiter. Ask for a recommendation and be adventurous – Italian food is NOT Fettucine al Alfredo or Pepperoni Pizza (neither exist here in Italy) but a whole host of fantastically local and regional dishes; rich in tradition, diverse, fabulous. Go wild, listen to your waiter and try something out of your comfort zone – it will probably be incredible.
Tags: coperto, dining out in italy, drinking wine in italy, italian food culture, moderation, restaurants, several courses, taking advice from your waiter