Debugging an Italian Menu
Many of you must have had the experience of staring into an Italian Menu and wondering what are you suppose to order or rather what would you enjoy eating? If you are a vegetarian, it is even worst if you accidentally ordered meat! Here we show you the basic of understanding an Italian Menu.
TYPES OF PLACES TO GET A MEAL
In Italy you can get meals at different types of establishment Caffe, Pizzeria, Trattoria, Osteria, Ristorante...read the signs outside each shop carefully. Pizzeria are usually cheapest among them followed by Trattoria or Osteria. Ristorante are more pricey. There are also pizza places you buy and take-away or you can stand inside the shop to eat.
During lunch time many of them offers lunch special at fixed price for a full meal. It ranges from €10 to €20 depending on your destination. Obviously in Cities like Rome, Venice, Florence or other high-traffic tourist cities meals will be more expensive.
UNDERSTANDING ITALIAN MENU
It is also important to understand how to read an Italian menu. It is really not that difficult. Just remember the food menu and the wine list are always separate. Part of dining out in Italy is getting the chance to enjoy unique, fresh ingredients that are readily available in that season where you are visiting. Foods that are in season are usually listed as the special, and will be some of the freshest and best tasting meals you may experience. Many seasonal favorites include artichokes, chicory, fennel, arugula, and mushrooms. Depending on the part of Italy you are visiting, you may get to try local specialties like salt cod, rabbit, or boar on the menu. In Piedmont Italy we have one special dish call Bagna Cauda a strong garlic dip with anchovies for those garlic lovers. Not every restaurants serves it. If you do find it on the menu, you must order it.
Italian menu are typically structured as below:
o Antipasti - the appetizers
o Formaggi - cheeses
o Primi piatti - first course, usually pasta or soup
o Secondi - second course, usually a meat or fish
o Contorni or insalate - vegetable side dishes or salad
o Dolce – desserts
It is also helpful to realize that everything is ordered a la carte. You mix and match them. Don't forget to order your side dishes they do not come with your ordered meals. Side dishes include verdura (vegetables), insalata (salad) or potato. Seafood is more pricey than meat dishes in Italy generally.
To order your drinks natural mineral water is acqua naturale and if you prefer fizzy mineral water its called acqua frizzante. You can order your wine in glasses or in a bottle at every place. White wine is vino bianco and red wine is vino rosso. It may surprised you that a glass of wine is priced similar to a glass of soda. Depending what you order. Bread is served with your meals as it is already charged in your bill - coperto.
At the end of the meal Italian usually choose a dolce (dessert) or a formaggi (cheese) plate. Italian end their meal with a cup of coffee usually espresso.
Italians usually eat late. Lunch typically starts around 1:00 pm and dinner is not until 8:00 pm. The restaurants close between lunch and dinner, but you might find some that open during this time in popular tourist areas. Most shops are closed for at least 3 hours in the afternoon for siesta much like their Spanish neighbors. If you can't find a place open for lunch you may like to try some light snacks at Italian bars. You will find Italian sandwiches - panini , coffee and pastry or ice cream. Unlike bars in America, bars in Italy are not for drinking alcohol only.
PAYING FOR YOUR MEALS
To ask for your bill at the end of your meal - say "il conto." The prices on the menu usually include taxes and service, as mentioned there may be a small cover and bread charge added to the bill. Leave a few coins for a tip. Keep in mind that not all restaurants in Italy accept credit cards, so you'll want to keep cash on hand. If you are having your meals at a Pizzeria, Trattoria or Osteria it is not uncommon that you will be served your bill at your table but you will need to pay at the counter in person.
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