How to Eat like an Italian
Italy is full of quirks, there are many untold rules and etiquettes and you often get the feeling there is a strong national ‘way to do things’. This applies to food with some serious rigour as you might imagine – food is not flippant for Italians. Here we codify what it is to Eat like an Italian.
- Talk about food: Italians love food so much, they will talk about it whilst waiting for and eating their meals. They will exchange recipes; food stories and you often hear ‘my Nonna used to make it like this’. Food is what you talk about at the table.
- Mix it up: only because it’s labelled Secondo (main course), doesn’t mean you can’t have it as a starter. At the seaside for example we like to have a fritto misto as a starter, before a pasta alle vongole. If you want some cheese and cold cuts after your pasta, that is also ok.
- Don’t mix it up: don’t put salad or veggies on your plate of pasta. No one wants to taste amatriciana sauce on top of cicoria ripassata. Food is eaten as it’s served – individually by type.
- Food is seasonal and thus is should be eaten: don’t ask for asparagus in August, porcini in July, strawberries in November. Eat food when it’s meant to be eaten.
- No cheese on fish. Don’t draw scorn from the waiting staff and fellow eaters by asking for parmiggiano on your pasta alle sarde.
- A latte is a glass of milk; peperoni are bell peppers. The former is acceptable for adults only before 10am and the latter are a little difficult to digest on a pizza.
- Italians are very much in-touch with their digestive abilities and will openly talk about it whilst giving you tips on how to make Ziti alla Genovese (an onion rich traditional Neapolitan dish) easier to digest by salting the onions over night.
- Bolognese sauce doesn’t exist. It’s usually called Ragù and it is particularly good in Bologna. In Tuscany it’s just called sugo, because that is the default sauce.
- Food in Italy is hyper regional. Some classics have spread their wings (pizza, pesto, spritz), other have not. Eating like an Italian really means eating like a Calabrese or a Piemontese or Sardinian – each have their own food style and tradition. While you travel across the country, if you eat hyper local you are eating like an Italian.