Italian in Italy

Eating Out

An oceanfront seafood restaurant

In Italy, the pleasure of fine food is taken very seriously. Not only is it regarded as one of life's special pleasures but an important social event as well. It is for this reason that one rarely finds Italians dining alone. Whether in a restaurant with 6 tables or one with 60, diners will notice a per person cover charge ( coperta ) on the bill. Tips are not required, but a small amount left for exceptional service is always appreciated.

The trattoria is an inexpensive restaurant that is generally open only for lunch and, during the weekend, for dinner. More elaborate restaurants are generally open only for dinner, which, in Italy, is rarely eaten before 7:30 or 8:00. The pizzeria is a restaurant that specializes in pizza but always features other dishes such as pasta and a variety of meats.

At all meals, each item on the menu is ordered separately and is served in a particular order. First is the antipasto (literally "before the meal"), which may be a plate of deli meat and cheese, melon and ham, bread with tomato, garlic and olive oil, or fish (to name just a few possibilities. Next comes the primo piatto (first course), which is usually pasta, risotto, or soup, then the secondo , which is the meat, fish or poultry course. Contorni accompanies the second course in the form of vegetables, potatos, or salad. Then comes the fruit and finally the dessert and coffee. Each portion is sized in proportion to the entire meal.

Cuisine in Italy changes from region to region. One finds a greater use of tomatoes and spices in the cooking in Southern Italy, while in Northern Italy, one finds more white sauces.

International restaurants in Italy are predominantly Chinese, although one can often find Mexican, Turkish, Morroccan and Indian restaurants, as well as American grills for steak and American fastfood chains. Rosticcerie are restaurants that specialize in take-out foods where one can buy pasta, meat, roasted chicken and fried fish to take home.