How to order in an Italian restaurant??

Sep 16th, 2007, 09:15 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 76
How to order in an Italian restaurant??

I have read that ordering a meal in Italy is not straight forward. I will be leaving in 2 weeks and would love some advice on how to order properly and not seem like a fool. I have a book that helps me translate the menu, but I know that there are quite a few differences from USA establishments...such as ordering by courses, appetizers...etc. Thanks
chayes is offline  
Sep 16th, 2007, 09:29 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 894
I find Italian courses much larger than in France. Do not make the mistake of feeling obligated to order a full course meal. I often find that even with two courses I am too full to eat desert. The pasta course in most cases in quite substantial and a meal in itself.

Also, it is not unusual to order vegetables separate from the main course. Sometimes the main course (meat or fish) comes with nothing at all and you are expected to order side dishes to go along with it (either vegetables, potato or salad etc).

In most cases, the menu will be a la carte. Order what you like and it will be just fine. Enjoy your holiday.

CRAZY4TRAVEL is offline  
Sep 16th, 2007, 09:33 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 74,159
Hi C,

A full Italian dinner consists of
antipasto - appetizer
primo - usually a pasta dish
secondo - main course
contorno - side dish to go with main
formaggio - cheese (optional)
desert - optional
desert wine - optional

You can have any or all of the above.

Misunderstandings usually occur when one person wants an antipasto and a primo, another wants a primo and a secondo, another wants a secondo and desert.

The default is to serve the antipasto, then the two primi, then the two secondi and finally the desert.

If everyone wants the first course at the same time and the 2nd course at the same time, you must be sure that the waiter understands this.

If you are dining alone, there will be no difficulty at all.

Note that you will not be brought the bill until you ask for it.

Enjoy your visit.

ira is offline  
Sep 16th, 2007, 10:04 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 36,518
I've always felt the most notable "surprise" is that the secondo or "main" course is often quite small. Many people order a first course after an antipasta or order an appetizer and a pasta, thinking that the veal or beef dish will be more food than they want. But usually those secondo dishes are something like a small plate with a single slice of veal with mushrooms or whatever and nothing else. We would rather split an antipasta and maybe even a pasta and indulge in a secondo each -- which is less filling in total than just doing an antipasta and a pasta.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Sep 16th, 2007, 11:07 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 10,605
I asked similar questions and got a lot of comments:
Travelnut is offline  

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