etiquette for eating at an italian restaurant

Italian Restaurant Etiquette: 12 Tips To Enjoy Italian Venues

who this class is for

Restaurant guests

Test your knowledge with a quick test and earn a free micro-certificate

Shop for etiquette, behavioral, and contextual signs

About this micro-class

Italian restaurant etiquette is important to ensure a pleasant dining experience for both guests and the restaurant staff.

Etiquette for Guests at an Italian Restaurant

1. Key Characteristics of the Food

Italian cuisine is known for its simplicity, fresh ingredients, and regional diversity.

Dishes often feature pasta, risotto, olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, and herbs like basil and oregano.

Cheese, particularly mozzarella, ricotta, and Parmigiano-Reggiano, is also prevalent.

2. Cuisines

Italian cuisine varies greatly by region. Some popular regional cuisines include:

  • Northern Italian cuisine, known for rich dishes like creamy risottos and hearty stews.
  • Central Italian cuisine, famous for pasta dishes like carbonara and cacio e pepe.
  • Southern Italian cuisine, characterized by seafood, spicy flavors, and dishes like pizza and eggplant Parmesan.

Some Italian regional cuisines have also been influenced by neighboring countries like France, Austria, and Greece.

3. Typical Foods at this Type of Establishment

Common dishes you might find include:

  • Pasta dishes like spaghetti carbonara, fettuccine Alfredo, and lasagna.
  • Risottos such as risotto alla Milanese (saffron risotto).
  • Pizza with various toppings.
  • Antipasti (appetizers) like bruschetta, caprese salad, and prosciutto with melon.

4. Condiments That are Common

Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and grated Parmesan cheese are often available as condiments.

5. Drinks That are Recommended or Not Recommended

Italian cuisine pairs well with a variety of drinks, including:

  • Wine: Italian wines like Chianti, Barolo, and Pinot Grigio are popular choices.
  • Cocktails: Aperol Spritz, Negroni, and Limoncello are traditional Italian cocktails.
  • Mineral water: Italians often drink still or sparkling mineral water with their meals.

Avoid overly sweet or heavy drinks that might overpower the flavors of the food.

6. Dietary Restrictions and Options

Italian restaurants typically offer vegetarian options like Margherita pizza, pasta primavera, and vegetable risottos.

Vegan options might include pasta dishes with marinara sauce, salads, and vegetable-based antipasti.

Many Italian restaurants also offer gluten-free pasta for those with celiac disease.

7. Table Etiquette

In Italian restaurants, it’s customary to use utensils rather than eating with your hands.

Keep your elbows off the table, and use a napkin to dab your mouth.

It’s polite to wait for everyone at the table to be served before starting to eat.

8. Meals in Day and Hours

Lunch is typically served from around 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM, and dinner starts around 7:00 PM and can last until late evening.

9. Structure of Meals & Duration

The average meal in an Italian restaurant can last around 1-2 hours.

A typical meal might include antipasti (appetizers), primi piatti (first courses like pasta or risotto), secondi piatti (main courses like meat or fish), contorni (side dishes), and dolci (dessert).

10. How to Order

People usually order multiple courses, starting with antipasti or primi piatti, followed by secondi piatti if desired, and finishing with dolci. Another option is to skip primi piatti and order secondi piatti after antipasti.

It’s common for each person to order their own dish, but sharing is also acceptable.

11. Sharing

Sharing food is generally acceptable in Italian restaurants, especially if it’s done in a considerate manner.

12. Bad Manners to Avoid

Don’t ask for Parmesan cheese to put on seafood dishes.

Avoid using excessive amounts of condiments like ketchup or mustard.

Don’t request substitutions or alterations to traditional dishes unless you have dietary restrictions.

Test your knowledge with a quick test and earn a free micro-certificate

Shop for etiquette, behavioral, and contextual signs

related micro-classes