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A guide to Italian Food Culture

The Italians are passionate about food and cooking, and it is easy to understand because Italian cuisine is based on fresh, high-quality ingredients. Therefore, there is also a big difference in the dishes you are served in the different regions of Italy. The information below is therefore generalized since it is impossible to go into depth in just one article. Therefore, to experience the unique traditions of each unique region, we urge you to test the gastronomic delights yourself on a (round) trip in the country.

Breakfast in Italy

The Italians do not make a big deal of breakfast, and they often settle for a cup of coffee without eating anything.

In hotels, where breakfast is usually included in the price, you get something to eat, but you should not expect the biggest breakfast buffet, although of course there are hotels where they serve a great breakfast – to the delight of the guest. An Italian breakfast is generally sweet and the most common breakfast items are croissants and cakes, for which you drink either an espresso (caffè) or cappuccino – you can also ask for hot chocolate

Main meals in Italy

Italians are a people who often eat out in a restaurant, both in the middle of the day and in the evening – in the middle of the day for practical reasons and in the evening (and at the Sunday lunch) because it is a nice way to spend time with loved ones. Everyday lunches rarely take a long time, as it is about holding the shortest possible break – whether it is work or siesta waiting. But in the evening and on Sunday lunch, you take plenty of time, and a meal can easily last for several hours.

The dinner is usually divided into four dishes: antipasto, an appetizer that often consists of cold cuts and cheese with various accessories; Primi Piatti, a hearty starter that often accounts for dinner’s carbohydrate intake in the form of pasta or risotto; secondi Piatti, here the protein comes into the picture, in the form of meat, poultry or fish and if you want you can order contorno (usually different types of vegetables or potatoes) as an accessory; and finally dolce, the dessert that can be anything from gelato to tiramisù or fresh fruit.

There are different types of restaurants in Italy, where the most common are ristorante and trattoria. In general, a trattoria is a simpler type of restaurant, where one does not keep as closely on the label, but where the atmosphere is warm and the food is often cooked with great passion. However, one should not only rely on the name, but there are also trattorias that have become very noticeable and now serve luxury food at sky-high prices. Do your research before booking the table!

Restaurant service in Italy

The service level is high in almost all Italian restaurants, and expressions like it were not me, it was my colleague is completely unknown, while the word zubito (at one time), however, is often used – and if a waiter promises one thing, you also do not have to wait many moments of what you wanted.

Unlike in many other countries, you do not need to order all your dishes at once, because then you risk getting your secondo before you finish your primo. In most places, you can simply order your first dish, and keep the menu to order something more, if you are still hungry. You should also remember that the main courses, ie in secondi often come without a garnish, and that you should, therefore, order extra contorno if you do not want to eat the meat/fish by themselves. However, there is no guarantee that contorno will arrive at the same time as the secondo.

Pizza and pasta in Italy

Italy offers so many more dishes than just pizza, and on the other hand, pizza is more than just a dish in Italy, it is an institution, and there are rigid rules for how to make a genuine Neapolitan pizza. Naples, which is said to be the city where the pizza was once born, and its inhabitants are very proud of this cultural dish, and if you ask a Napolitan, he would claim that it is not possible to get a pizza Neapolitan outside the city borders – while in other places, people are a little more open-minded and consider that a good pizza, you can find across the whole country.

When it comes to pasta, there are probably as many pasta dishes as there are residents in Italy – millions. Well, it may be a bit of an exaggeration, but the fact is, wherever you go in the country, you will get to taste a pasta dish that is special and unique to that region, province, or city. Then, of course, it is possible to discuss just how unique the dish is – it may be that you only added spice or changed the cooking time in comparison with the “same” dish from the neighboring region, but you simply do what you can to call your pasta original.

Pasta, by the way, is among many Italians’ favorite lunches – it goes fast and you get satisfied, just as lunch should be.

Snacks in Italy

Despite the quite powerful main dishes you can get in Italy, there is a large selection of light dishes of different types at the various Italian cafes and bars. And the Italians travel to these places throughout the day to get such a snack – especially in the morning when hunger creeps in after the lack of breakfast.

Panini, pies, and cakes are present in most cafes, and they come in all sorts of different shapes and sizes, as well as ready-made light dishes sold from snack bars and shops.

The Italian menu is usually divided into several groups:

  • Antipasto – about the equivalent of France’s hors d’oeuvre
  • Primo Piatto – roughly the equivalent of France’s entrées. In this category, you will find mainly pasta dishes, but also risotto and soups.
  • Secondo Piatto – what can be compared to main courses, divided into the meat (carne), fish (pesce), and bird (mainly pollo chicken).
  • Contorno – main course accessories, usually sautéed vegetables, fried potatoes, or similar.
  • Dolce (pl. Dolci) – all kinds of desserts, such as cheese, fruit, cakes, traditional desserts, and ice cream.

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