One reason Italy attracts so many people is the great food that you can eat anywhere. With a deep regional culinary tradition wherever you are, you can taste something typical and be amazed. From the amazing food to eat at the Riviera Adriatica to the local dishes to taste in Padua.
What Should You Eat in Italy?
You can eat whenever you want in Italy. There is food at any hour, but Italians are very serious when it comes to food.
- Breakfast is the main meal from dawn until 11 am. Typically, you can have breakfast in one of the many bars where you can order a cappuccino and a croissant.
- Lunch is essential. Don’t eat quick snacks, but go to a restaurant between 12 and 2:30 pm. Before or after this time restaurants may be closed.
- In the afternoon feel free to eat all the snacks you want. Taralli, a slice of focaccia, some baked cakes or ice cream…but don’t overeat, because Italian dinners are the real deal!
- Dinner is the most important meal. Take time to chat and share what you’ve done during the day. The dishes are abundant and the time spreads between a glass of wine and maybe some dessert.
Menus in Italy
Menus in Italy may appear difficult to understand. At lunch, you can pick a main course, and there are fewer dishes to choose. At dinner, the menu is divided into different sections.
- Antipasto (Starters). Starters are small dishes you can pick to start dinner. You can pick one or two or opt for “antipasto della casa.” This starter is a mix of all the specialties the restaurant offers. Some of the antipasti can have up to 10 different starters.
- Primo (First course). Spaghetti, lasagna, tortelli, ravioli…everything is about pasta.
- Secondo (Second course). Whether it is meat, vegetables or fish, the second dish is sometimes the main dish. In this menu section, you will not find pasta.
- Contorno (Sides). There is never a large selection of sides to choose from, and usually, those are baked potatoes, fries, salad or grilled vegetables.
- Dolce (Desserts). An old Japanese proverb says the dessert ends up in another stomach, so even if you are full, there is always room for something sweet. Choose small desserts from the menu. In almost all restaurants you can order tiramisu or sorbet.
You don’t need to pick a dish from every section because Italians often don’t. Normally, Italians order mixed appetizers to share. These follow either the first dish or the second dish, depending on what the menu offers. To finish, a dessert and coffee are perfection. If you feel a bit heavy, ask for an “amaro.” Amari are liquors served at the end of a dinner and help accelerate digestion.
Finally, feel free to eat whatever you want without feeling guilty. The important thing is just not ordering lasagna at breakfast!