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How to Order a Meal in Venice
The standard procedures of a restaurant meal in Venice and throughout Italy are different from those in the United States (and many other places). When you sit down in a ristorante or trattoria you're expected to order two courses at a minimum, such as a primo (first course) and a secondo (second course), or an antipasto (starter) followed by a primo or secondo. A secondo is not a "main course" that can serve as a full meal.
The handiest places for a snack between sights are bars, cafés, and the quintessentially Venetian bacari (wine bars). Bars are small cafés that can serve any sort of drink from coffee to grappa, along with a quick panino (sandwich, often warmed on a griddle) or tramezzino (sandwich on untoasted white bread, usually with a mayonnaise-based filling). A café is like a bar but usually with more seating, and it may serve a few additional food items. If you place your order at the counter, ask if you can sit down: many places charge considerably more for table service. In some cases you'll pay a cashier first, then give your scontrino (receipt) to the person at the counter who fills your order.
Mealtimes and Closures
Breakfast (la colazione) is usually served from 7 to 10:30, and it usually consists of little more than coffee and a roll; the only place you may find meat or eggs is at your hotel. Lunch (il pranzo) is served from 12:30 to 2, dinner (la cena) from 7:30 to 10. Many bacari open as early as 8 am, but they do not serve typical breakfast items or coffee; some Venetians partake of cichetti for their morning meal.
Reservations and Dress
Reservations are always recommended in restaurants, especially Friday through Sunday. We mention them in reviews only when they are essential or not accepted. We mention dress only when men are required to wear a jacket or a jacket and tie. Keep in mind that Italian men never wear shorts or running shoes in a restaurant or bacaro, no matter how humble. The same "rules" apply to ladies' casual shorts, running shoes, and plastic sandals. Shorts are acceptable in pizzerias and cafés.
Prices and Tipping
All prices include tax. Prices include service (servizio), unless indicated otherwise on the menu. It's customary to leave a small tip (from a euro to 10% of the bill) in appreciation of good service. Tips are always given in cash. Most restaurants have a "cover" charge, usually listed on the menu as pane e coperto. It should be modest (€1-€2.50 per person) except at the most expensive restaurants. Some instead charge for bread, which should be brought to you (and paid for) only if you order it. When in doubt, ask about the policy upon ordering.
The price of fish dishes is often given by weight (before cooking); the price on the menu will be for 100 grams (4 ounces); a typical fish portion will come to 350 grams (14 ounces). Keep some cash on hand, because many osterie, bacari, and pizzerias don't take credit cards.
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