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How To Eat In Italy Like A Local: 10 Things You Need To Know


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If there is a foodies’ paradise on earth, this place is Italy. In fact, Italian cuisine was recognized as the best in 2022, leaving Greece, Japan, and Spain behind. The secret of this success is the recipes’ simplicity and the local, high-quality ingredients that Italy has never lacked.

Italians are incredibly proud of their food, and, as with many cuisines, several rules come along. So, if you want to eat like a local during your Roman (or any other) holiday in Italy, it’s good to know some basic rules.

10 The Truth About Italian Breakfast

If you’re wondering what Italians eat for breakfast, the answer is simple – not much. In Italy, breakfast is a predominantly light meal that includes a cup of coffee (espresso or cappuccino) and a croissant that Italians call brioche.

Even though food has a special place in Italians’ hearts, breakfast is not prioritized much. Generally, Italians have a quick meal before heading to work just to activate digestion.

So, if you eat out in Italy, you won’t see bacon and eggs, oatmeal, or an omelet on the menu unless you’re spending your vacation in international cities like Milan or Bologna.

9 Pizza Can Be Different

Pizza for Italians is an ultimate treasure that they love dearly and usually eat once per week.

In Italy, pizza can be of different shapes and with surprising topping combinations like pumpkin and Italian sausage (salsiccia) or Italian cured meat (speck) and honey. You can always opt for traditional tastes, but trust us; gourmet pizzas deserve attention too.

Also, it’s very common for Italians to eat square pizza cut into pieces for lunch, while the round one with friends or family on the weekend.

Related: Pizza Comes From Italy, But Traveled With Soldiers During WWII

8 Cappuccino Is A Morning Drink Only

Alright, let’s solve it once and forever. In Italy, cappuccino is a morning drink only, but the truth is… nobody will judge you if you ask for it in the afternoon.

Italians prefer espresso instead of cappuccino in the second part of the day for one simple reason – it helps to digest the heavy pasta they usually eat for lunch. The same rule applies to a hearty dinner.

If you don’t want to stand out from the crowd but espresso is too bitter for you, there are many other alternatives with whipped cream and sweet syrups.

7 Every Region Is Unique

Italian cuisine is highly varied and differs greatly depending on the region. There is no ultimate answer to the question of which cuisine is better, from the north or the south of Italy, because each is unique in its way.

What you need to know, however, is that every region has specialties, and it’s better to eat food that has been locally grown or produced.

Here is one simple example. Don’t expect to find meals you tried in Naples in Bologna’s restaurants, for instance, because Bologna’s traditional cuisine is just… different.

Also, if you want to taste superb seafood, do it in the Italian coastal regions. Known for its freshest seafood in Italy, Amalfi has many scrumptious meals you should try.

Related: Bon Appétit: Reddit-Approved Guide For Dining In Italy

6 Follow The Food Schedule

This may sound funny, but Italians eat according to the schedule, not when hungry. The schedule is very strict, and if you don’t follow it, you basically don’t eat because places will be closed.

Breakfast in Italy lasts until 10-11 AM, lunch is from noon until 2 PM, and dinner starts not earlier than 7 PM. Once you follow this timeline, you’re covered.

In tourist places, restaurants usually work all day long. But you want to eat like a local, right? Then, try to stick to the plan.

5 Full Restaurant Is A Sign Of Quality

Do you know how to choose the best restaurant in Italy? Always pay attention to the occupancy! If it’s full, and you can hear only Italians talking, it means that the food is excellent.

Locals would never go to a restaurant with poor service and unappetizing dishes.

Related: 10 Dishes That Will Make You Book A Flight To Italy

4 Digestivo After Dinner

Don’t be surprised if a server brings you a bottle (or sometimes two) of liqueur after dinner in a restaurant. In Italy, it’s called digestivo, which, as you’ve probably guessed from its name, will help you to digest your filling dinner.

There are two types of digestive, a limoncello and a liqueur with a liquirizia taste. It’s free of charge and drinking it is absolutely optional.

3 Always Opt For A House Wine

Here is one budget-friendly life hack. If you go to an Italian restaurant, always choose a house wine. It’s way cheaper than a bottle. Of course, the price depends on the restaurant, but you can pay 5€ for a liter in some places.

The trick is that this wine is produced by the restaurant or purchased from local wineries. So, why overpay if you can still get an excellent wine paying less, right?

2 Basics Of Italian Cuisine

Italian cuisine is all about simplicity, local herbs, and regional specialties. Pasta, cheese, meat, seafood, veggies, and fruits comprise the typical Italian diet.

For Italians, olive oil is the main ingredient in any meal preparation. They use it as a marinade, salad dressing, or fry meat. The same goes for tomato paste, which you can see in pasta or meat dishes.

1 Leaving A Tip Is Uncommon

Another cultural feature is that Italians never leave a tip in a restaurant.

Of course, if you’ve been satisfied with your experience and want to express gratitude to the restaurant staff, you can always do it. But Italians never expect you to leave a tip, and neither will they include 15-20% to your bill.

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