Thursday, May 9, 2013

Six Things You Should Never Say While Dining in Italy

1. "Don't you have any American coffee?"
I would never have believed it unless I heard it with my own ears but there I was dining in a small Roman restaurant near the Pantheon when someone with a booming Southern accent asked, "Don't you have any American coffee?" I raised my head just high enough to see the waiter's bewildered look as he shook his head slowly. No, Italians don't drink American coffee. They drink cappuccino or espresso in the morning. During the afternoon or after the evening meal, it's always espresso, never cappuccino.

2. "Where's the breakfast menu?"
Italians start their day with light fare: either a cup of espresso or cappuccino and a cornetti (similar to our croissant). You will not find bacon and eggs, omelettes, pancakes or waffles on any restaurant menu. Save your appetite for lunch when Italians sit down for a long and leisurely three-course meal.
A copy of the book Chow Italy

3. "May I have some butter with this bread?"
Yes, a basket of bread will be placed on your table but unlike here in the US, it won't include little cubes of butter. You see, Italian bread is so good butter isn't needed. In fact, butter is rarely used even in cooking, at least anywhere south of Milan.

4. "I'd love a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs or some chicken parmigiana."
Delicious? Yes. Italian? Not so much. These two quintessential dishes are Italian-American. You will find polpette, Italian meatballs, on restaurant menus. They'll arrive at your table in a small bowl bathed in marinara sauce.

5. "May I make a reservation for 5 p.m?"
After that big mid-day meal and subsequent siesta, Italians head back to work and won't close up shop until 7 p.m. Therefore, most restaurants open later. If you want to eat with tourists, head to the neighborhood eatery early. If you want to eat with the locals, make your reservation at 8 p.m., the earliest.

6. "May I have a doggie-bag?"
It doesn't exist. If you can't finish your meal, just push your plate away, and leave it at that.


  1. Hi Christina, very funny, especially the American coffee. I actually hear that quite often, and one time the barrista made an espresso and then poured it in a regular-sized coffee cup and then filled the rest of it with water! Viola', you have American coffee. :-)

    Another thing you won't find at the table is ice. They like to drink their drinks at room temperature.

    Larry Aiello

    1. Funny! Re: the ice. That's a tough one for my husband. I, on the other hand, don't mind.