When you go to Italy, keep in mind that Italians are concerned in the food culture, especially about their eating habits. They stick to some eating rules that they had been working for centuries and save themselves from any embarrassment. Here is a list of the food suggestions you have to follow, if you want to be “more Italian”:
Parmigiano Reggiano is surely one of the best and most appreciated cheeses in the world. Italians love to eat it, paired with with pasta and risotto or composing an entrée with deli meats and a good glass of white wine. But, it doesn’t go well in the eyes of Italians when you consume it with your main course meal! Your main course meal is already filled with varied aromas, and the strong flavor of the cheese could overwhelm the taste of certain dishes. Also keep in mind for pasta and risotto: the more the cheese is aged, the best it matches with first courses!
Cappuccino or caffe latte are considered as breakfast drinks because of their heaviness on the stomach and for their intense sweet flavor. The heaviness of these drinks is also related to the ample quantity and volume in which they are served that they suffice. They are the right choice to recharge your stamina and your strengths for the day; so, the morning is generally considered as the only part of the day to drink cappuccino.
In case you decide to have a cappuccino after midday, you would surely make yourself look like you are not a native of Italy. However, you can always have a regular cup of espresso, adding a little milk on it, and you will blend in among Italians! But, keep in mind: if you pour a little milk on espresso, you are asking for a “Caffè macchiato”, not “Latte macchiato”. The last one is, indeed, a mug of milk with a small addition of espresso.
While in other certain countries pairing hot drinks with meals is a common food habit, it’s a big NO in Italy. As British people do in the United Kingdom, Italians love to have hot drinks for breakfast or after midday. They never drink tea or hot drinks for lunch or dinner and they serve it with lemon and sugar and rarely with milk.
Italians prefer eating fresh bread, when they are waiting for the first course. They prefer eating bread when the pasta is gone from the table, and if you order bread with a first course, you will look like a tourist. Moreover, if you need bread with pasta, it is only allowed when the last bite is left and to wipe the sauce from the plate to do the so called “scarpetta".
If you decide to experience the real Italian pizza in a traditional pizzeria, you will probably be surprised not finding a pineapple pizza on the menu. Indeed, Italians have strict rules regarding what can be put on top of a pizza. You can order a pizza with pepperoni, with mushrooms, even with fried potatoes or smashed potatoes. But, extremely sweet flavors like fruits or chocolate are absolutely forbidden. Would you like to know a perfect food pairing? Pizza and beer are a very balanced combo for your palate!
The secret for the perfect Italian pasta resides in the right time of cooking. Many people think that pasta has to be served, “when it sticks on the wall”. This common mistake finds its roots in the old cooking methods of the 18th century, when pasta was overcooked even in Italy. Between the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century the Italian mass immigration spread the overcooking pasta recipe in the other countries. Nowadays, Italians eat pasta “al dente”, it is to say firm and slightly chewy. Moreover, the nutritionists suggest to eat pasta slightly undercooked because it is easier to digest. Have you already tried it?
In the other countries, Italian restaurants usually serve new versions and variations of traditional Italian dishes to meet the taste of their clients. For example, it’s common to find Alfredo Pasta or Mac & Cheese, two dishes born in the US and not related to the Italian cuisine. Thus, you could be shocked not finding Mac & Cheese or Alfredo Pasta in Italy.
Those seven simple rules are the secret to be more Italian and less tourist. Let’s see if you will be recognized as tourist from your new food habits!