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How to eat like an Italian

We’ve gathered together our top tips on how to eat like an Italian, from when to order your cappuccino to how to eat your pasta and why drinks are never served with ice

Katie Ramsingh
City Guide
Katie Ramsingh,

The order of service

Aperitivo – usually a cocktail or glass of wine served with nuts and olives

Antipasti – a starter of anything from cured meats to cheese and smoked fish

Primo – a first course, usually a pasta dish

Secondo – a second course of meat or fish; vegetarians may opt for a potato-based dish

Contorno/salade – a side dish or palette-cleansing salad

Dolce – a sweet dessert, usually made with cream

Formaggi e fruit – cheese and fruit platters

Caffè – coffee, or sorbet for those who prefer not to have caffeine

Digestivo – a liqueur such Limoncello or Grappa to finish


Take your time
Italians like to savour every meal. They never rush to finish a dish or meal as it is seen as a very social occasion. When in Italy, eat like an Italian and take the time to relax and enjoy every part of your meal


Know your coffee rules
Cappuccino should always be drunk in the morning and never after a large meal. Ordering a cappuccino after 11.30am is a faux pas in Italy


The principles of pasta
Italians never cut up their pasta. Instead, they twirl it around a fork and never use a spoon


Salad is a palette cleanser
In Italy, salad is served after the second course as the acidity of the vinegar and the fresh lettuce aid digestion and refresh and cleanse your palette before dessert


Italians love bread
Bread is served at mealtimes almost every day in Italy. However, it is always eaten with the second meat or fish course, never pasta. In restaurants, you will be charged for bread and table service


Hold the ice
Italians never take ice in their soft drinks – instead, drinks are simply served cold. If you wish to have ice in your drink, you must ask for it specifically. As it’s an uncommon practice, you may get some questioning looks


Try a sorbet
For those who dislike coffee, try ordering a sorbetto – sorbet – after your meal. It is a tasty alternative for those who prefer something cool or caffeine-free


No need to tip
It is not customary to tip in Italy. While a waiter won’t be offended at being offered a tip, customers are not obliged to do so and most Italians do not



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