So, here is a little guide to get you through the most delightful culinary experience while dining in Italy. First, be patient. Everything in Italy takes longer, so enjoy the view (aka the men), the fresh food & relax. Traditional italian meals consist of 5 parts. Only a few times have we ordered all 5 courses, we normally stick to 3, and thats plenty. (but never ask for a doggie bag! you will only get an evil eye from the waiter).
Antipasti : Italian Appetizers, these are very small dishes served before the meal. Usually slices of meat & cheeses, olives, or bruschetta (pronounced Bruuuskea tah, if you say BruCHEta it hurts the Italians ears)
Primo : First Course (my favorite) is usually some kind of pasta dish, risotto or zuppa (soup). Favorites include the gnocchi at Osteria Santo Spirito, and the one below at Quattro Leoni.
|Fiocchetti di pera in salsa @ Quattro Leoni|
Secondo: Second Course, Meat of some sort, fish or chicken. The plate will have one chicken breast, normally with some delicious homemade sauce. Keep in mind you will not get a "side dish" with any of these, they are ordered separately.
Contorni : Side dishes - asparagus, salad, vegetables, etc. You eat salads after your main dish, not before. It helps the digestive tract.
Dolce: Dessert, do I need to explain? I could not tell you what desserts they have in Florence, other than cheesecake, because our group of girls only order this. We never look at the menu, thank you Nadia & Valerie. We compare to other restaurants, and the winners so far is the cheesecake at Quattro Leoni in the Oltrano, or Baldovino in Santa Croce. Yumm-O!
Typically, after you have your dolce, the waiter will ask you if you want a digestivo. Believe me, these help to "digest" your food. Then you can also have a caffe, NEVER cappucino. That is considered a dolce in itself, and is only to be drank at breakfast time.
Acqua Naturale (for us Americans) and Vino della casa are standard at most restaurants, and in my opinion, its fantastic and well worth the price. Sometimes less than 5 Euros for a caraf. Bravo. That sure beat the $45 bottles you find in America for practically the same stuff.
When you are ready to leave, you need to ask for the bill, otherwise they will never bring it. Ever. They are not being rude by ignoring you, the Italians are letting you enjoy your dinner. Simply ask for "Il conto per favore". Then, more than not "coperto" or "pane" (bread) charge is on the bill, so there is no need to tip, unless you want to leave a couple euro coins. It is absolutely not expected to tip, another thing I love about Italy. The non-tipping mentality can lead to other issues for us Americans expecting a certain level of service, but I will leave that for another blog.
Happy Dining ! Ciao!