I know you’re thinking….you mean it’s more complicated than putting food in mouth?
I’d love to say I have the secret to blending in while visiting Italy, but truthfully you’ll always look like a tourist. No need to be ashamed, embrace it! I just try to avoid looking like a mangiacake – a derogatory term Italo-Canadians Italians for WASPs. While in Modena I learned a few simple things to know if you’re going to eat like an Italian.
Rule 1: Take your time.
Be prepared to slow down – really slow down. Here’s the bad news if you’re hungry. It’s normal to wait half an hour before you are served. The good news: you won’t be rushed to leave. There is no pressure to turn the tables here.
Rule 2: You Eat What You’re Served
You may be accustomed to asking for substitutions or dressing on the side – this is not the Italian way. Unless you have an allergy, or have a special need (gluten-free, vegetarian) you should order straight from the menu.
Rule 3: Practice the Art of Scarpetta.
Picking up the plate to lick it clean is gauche but you can show your appreciation to the chef by mopping up the extra sauce with bread.
Rule 4: No Smoking
Fancy a cigarette? You cannot smoke in the restaurant but like much of Europe that doesn’t mean you won’t find smokers outside in the street.
Rule 5: Watch How Italians Order
Ordering in Italy can be very confusing, the best thing to do is watch what locals and follow their lead.
Many bars and cafes have a counter and a few tables. Sometimes you need to pay the cashier first and show your ticket to the bartender at the counter.
Other times you can pay and order from the bartender.
At times, you can also pay at the counter and then sit down. If you pay at the counter and would like to sit ask if it is okay as there may be an incremental charge.
Every so often you can sit down and someone will serve you. Again this may be for an incremental charge.