Rome dining & "doggie bags"

Old Jan 21st, 2001, 01:49 PM
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Rome dining & "doggie bags"

Ok, here's a different situation, dear readers. Hubby and I will be first time visitors in Rome 3/4-3/12/2001. We both had stomach surgery and cannot consume normal size meals (3/4 c. max.) This is no problem in the States as we just doggie bag (except in fine dining restaurants) leftovers. However, in reading Italy guide book, I understand the courses are numerous, food is both exquisitely delicious, outrageously generous in portion size, not to mention, pricey as well.
So my question is, do restaurants in Rome allow patrons to "split" or "share" a meal? Or will we be the subject of withering looks by the staff? How about ordering a meal for hubby and my asking for an empty plate? And I guess doggie bags in Rome are totally and ridiculously out of the questions, huh?
"Grazie" in advance to responders...Ciao!
Old Jan 21st, 2001, 05:39 PM
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In many, many meals in many Italian (in fact European) restaurants I've never seen plates shared or doggie bags. Then again, I don't spend much time watching other diners.

As to courses and size of portions, I think you may have been given a bit of a misimpression.

Italian meals are ordered by the course, unless you choose to order a "menu turistico" which will be with set items. In general the prices of individual prices are quite reasonable, we've found. Naturally, a 24 ounce Porterhouse in a fine restaurant is going to be a bit expensive, there as here.

You can have one, two, three, ten courses ... your choice. "Normal", if there is such a thing in Italy, would be a soup or pasta as a "primo", a meat "secondo", and a contorno ('vegetable'). Eat five if you're hungry by adding an antipasto before and a dolce (or frutta) afterward.

Note that with some rare exceptions you eat separate items as separate courses one at a time in sequence, unless you ask otherwise.

In general no one is likely to sneer at you for any reason. I've been twice with (different) acquaintances who ordered a tortellini in brodo for dessert (pasta in broth ... soup) without causing the waiter to raise an eyebrow.

Portion sizes are generally modest, expecially meat, though some (expensive) restaurants do lay it on pretty well. In general, though, I'd say US portions are larger and more overgenerous on the whole.

Of course, as in the US, it's not forbidden to leave some food on the plate.

Since one can order by the course to match one's appetite there's really little need, we've found, to order more food than you can eat and then ask for a doggy bag. At least we'd not goto an 'all you can eat' spot and then ask for a doggy bag. I'd worry, anyway, about how the room would smell after a night of being treated to the aroma of a nice garlicy sauce.

As noted we've found Italian restaurants and waiters especially cooperative, and we suspect you will as well.

On the other hand, we might understand how some might be a bit touchy if they perceived they were being taken advantage of ... they do have to make a living. Do understand that diners in Italy expect to have the table for the entire evening. That does mean, though, that the waiter and the owner expect a table for two to produce the revenue of two diners.

More info on 'typical' meal structure, courses and some favorite dishes at


Old Jan 21st, 2001, 07:39 PM
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Thanks, Ed. That helped a lot.
Old Jan 21st, 2001, 08:31 PM
Santa Chiara
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I have split courses in Italy--first, second and salad as well as dessert--with no problems or frowns at all.

Old Jan 22nd, 2001, 04:37 AM
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I have seen lots of Italians split or share portions at resturants. I think Europeans eat far less at a meal than most Americans.
Old Jan 22nd, 2001, 12:27 PM
Marcos Velez
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Some quick thoughts:
I am not sure where you heard food was expensive in Rome. If anything I was quite shocked to discover just the opposite. In general, even tourist restaurants, served excellent fare. Our meals were never cold or lukewarm. Everything was served "just right". As many have mentioned already, you usually order by course. For us, the first course was often simple pasta or a nice pizza for two, followed by a nice lamb, veal or seafood dish.

If you cant eat a regular meal, skip the primo (what a shame!) and just have a secondo. For lunch, do not get too worried. I found that pizza was great anywhere I ate it.

Things to know!!!: In Rome you dont eat pizza by the slice. You eat and buy by the eto (100 grams). I found that two "etos" was plenty for me. Pizza is very thin, and yummy!

Finally, I will venture into the unknown and make a restaurant recommendation. It was a bit pricey, but definitely the best restaurant I visited in Rome. It is called Piperno. It is located in the Jewish Ghetto neighborhood, not too far from the river. I highly recommend it. You will invariably need reservations (it is popular and it gets packed) so ask the hotel to call ahead for you.


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