You are in Italy for business or vacation and of course you want to profit of the (good) food eating out. Here is an article on how to read a menu, but are you sure you already know everything you need to know before going to a restaurant? Here you can find few suggestions.
1. You need to book a table on Fridays and weekends
Eating out is a way to gather with friends, so pizzerias and restaurants are packed with people on Fridays and weekends. Book a table in advance, even in the morning of the same day. During holidays, especially in renowned destination, it is a good idea to book several days before if you want to eat out at weekends. So, if you arrive in Sicily or Campania, as soon as you are there, select your restaurant and give them a call to book your table. You can also ask your hotel concierge or go there personally. In case the restaurant has a terrace, you can chose where to sit. Generally restaurateurs and waiters are happy to satisfy their customers needs. As much as possible, of course.
2. Close the menu if you want the waiter to arrive for the order
Once you sit at a table, you receive the menu. Generally, you should close it when you have decided what to eat. This is your way to tell the waiter to come for the order. If you do not close it, they will think you are still deciding.
3. Brain, tongue, lever can be on the menu
It is common to eat every part of the animal. In Piedmont, my region, you can find a dish called “fritto misto alla Piemontese”, with fried food such as: vegetables, fruit, pieces of meat…and interiors of the animal. Tongue is another popular dish in many regions, so check carefully the menu before ordering something you are not ready to try.
4. We all drink wine, children included
Drinking a glass of wine is perfectly fine both at midday and in the evening. In our culture, wine is considered food and we love to match it with our dishes. Even children are allowed to taste wine. Not a glass of course, maybe a bit, often added with water. Curiosity towards food is something we are grown with . Our parents encourage us to try new flavors and ingredient, and wine, as well as sweet spumante, is just one of those.
5. Cappuccino is only for breakfast
Let’s repeat it all together: Cappuccino is only for breakfast. Every time you ask for it after lunch or dinner, an Italian get immediately depressed. Save an Italian: do not order it at the restaurant. The reasons are simple: first of all Cappuccino is considered too heavy after a meal, and our tradition is full of rules for the best eating experience. And second, if restaurants do not serve breakfast, they might not be able to prepare a cappuccino.
Ask for a coffee instead. It will help your digestion and we will all be happy.
6. How to say you have finished eating
When you finish, place fork and knife on the plate to say you have concluded your meal. The waiter will notice it and come to pick up your dishes. Eventually, he will ask you if you want to eat something else, maybe a dessert or have a coffee.
7. Ask for the check
You have to ask for the check as it doesn’t arrive when you finish eating. Without asking, a waiter arriving with the check would be considered rude as it could be interpreted as a sign you have to leave. We you to relax and enjoy your meal with chit chats with family and friends. Unless the restaurants has a long line of people who are waiting for their table (generally during holidays), it is up to you to say you would like to leave. Aren’t we lovely?
You get charged for water
90% of the times it is bottled water, so you’ll pay for it. It is quite unusual to ask for tap water and in that case, only few restaurants do not charge it for it. When you order your meal, you will be asked if you prefer sparkling (frizzante) or mineral/natural water (naturale).
And also for the table
It is called coperto, or servizio, and generally is some 2 or 3 euro. Of course there are restaurants which do not charge it, but it is quite common to pay for the service. It is not common to have both voices as it happened to me in Naples. I got charged both for service and coperto, and when I asked why, the waiter said that one was for the dish on the table and the other for the waiter bringing it to me from the kitchen. I asked why they didn’t give me the possibility to collect the dishes from the kitchen myself. They didn’t reply. I didn’t go on as it was just few euros but I never returned there. In case you notice something weird, remember you can always ask to the local police. They will be happy to check for you.
Tipping is not required
But you can of course leave some money for the waiter who will appreciate it. In this case, you can leave the money on the table, cash. We do not tip with credit cards. In some places, you will find a jar for the tip near the cash register. In that case the tip will be shared among all employees. I prefer to tip the waiter, so I generally leave the money on the table before I leave.
That’s all, have you ever noticed something unusual to know in Italian Restaurants?