How To Order At An Italian Restaurant
So you’re in Italy, at a restaurant, staring at the menu. Firstly – lucky you, no one dines out like the Italians. Secondly – whatever happens next? If you’re a native Italian and you’re already halfway through aperitivo, then all this will be familiar. But if you’re a stranger to this beautiful country and looking for some guidance on navigating the Italian restaurant scene, this is the post for you.
Time it right
Dinner in Italy is very much dictated by the season and the climate. In the chillier northern regions dinner is often eaten as early as 8 pm, whereas the further south you travel, the later you tend to eat – from 9 pm or even later in the summer months.
Ask for recommendations
You’ll find lots of servers working in Italy are local or have been there for a long time. It might even be their family restaurant. The bottom line is, no one knows the menu like they do, so ask for what they recommend, both for the food and the wine.
Like most European countries, the tip at an Italian restaurant should reflect the level of service received. The thing to remember is the tip is never included in your final bill, so don’t assume it’s taken care of. I would recommend around 10/15%, but if you’ve had an amazing time, they’ll appreciate generosity!
Bread is part of the package at Italian restaurants and will come free to the table. This is dangerous because the bread is always delicious and usually freshly baked. Try to restrain yourself and avoid being full before your meal has even arrived.
“Il conto, perfavore!” – The bill, please!
“Che vino consiglia?” – What wine do you recommend?
“Che specialità del giorno avete?” – What’s on today’s specials?
“Dove si trova la migliore gelateria della zona?” – Where can I find the best ice cream place in the area?
“Grazie! Il pasto é stato ottimo!” – Thanks! The meal was excellent!
What to order in an Italian restaurant
If you’re travelling with us on our Journey through Italy (the newest recipe range on our weekly menu), then you’ll recognise some of these recommendations. Wherever you choose to visit in Italy, delicious local dishes are a guarantee. Here’s what to ask for in some of the most iconic Italian cities.
Its history as a trade route means Venetian cuisine has been influenced by cultures from around the world, often featuring exotic spices and sauces.
- Risòto col néro
- Baccala’ Mantecato
- Risi e Bisi
Hunting is part of the landscape in this northern region, and hearty meats like veal and wild boar are served with warming side dishes like orzo and polenta.
- Tajarin Burro e Salvia
- Vitello Tonnato
Wine: Barolo and Barbera
The crescent coast of the Italian Riviera is best known for cooking with aromatic herbs and fresh veg.
- Trofie Pesto alla Genovese
- Focaccia di Recco
Dishes rich with butter and cream are at the heart of local cuisine, along with rice and risottos generously flavoured with saffron.
- Risotto alla Milanese
- Cotoletta alla Milanese
- Gorgonzola and grana padano
This region is a wonderfully lustrous area, producing an abundance of fresh fruit and veg such as artichokes, fennel, lemon and oranges.
- Mozzarella Di Bufala or Stracciatella
- Salsiccia e Friarielli
Wine: Greco Di Tufo
The lively Renaissance city of Bologna is best known for the famous Bolognese ragù served worldwide with pasta.
- Culatello di Zibello
- Tagliatelle al Ragù
- Tortellini di Carne
The hills of Tuscany are rich with vineyards and farms, producing the naturally flavourful ingredients central to the simplicity of Tuscan cuisine.
- Bistecca alla Fiorentina
- Pappa al Pomodoro
Wine: Chianti and Montepulciano
Roman dishes such as rigatoni use an abundance of offal and cured meats, and we have the region to thank for many famous pasta dishes.
- Pasta Carbonara
- Pasta Cacio e Pepe
- Pasta All’Amatriciana
- Carciofi alla Romana
- Supplí al Telefono
Arabic infusions, hints of Greek and un poco de Espanol are found in Sicilian food, which often features aubergine and peppers amongst sea bass and swordfish.
- Pasta Alla Norma
- Cannolo Siciliano
Couscous combined with fish is authentic to the region, along with their generous use of mint – not a flavour usually associated with Italian cooking, but beloved in this little town.
- Pasta Con Le Sarde
Wine: Nero d’Avola
Experience authentic flavours, discover new ingredients and learn to cook like a true Italian in our newest range. To join the journey and cook some of these Italian meals for yourself, look out for the Journey Through Italy logo as you choose your weekly recipes.