How to eat like an Italian
May 21, 2016
I often get asked the question on how Italians eat (in Italy). I used to have this conversation with my mom and on occasion i would try to follow it, but living here it is tough as we have our own ways and times we eat certain meals.
You will notice times and type of meals are different. Meals are usually smaller and you will never see the obligatory "never ending pasta bowl"... never. that is neither Italian or food for that matter.
Breakfast (7.00 – 11.00)
This is always a light meal. May consist of a cappuccino or coffee & brioche (type of croissant) at a bar (often standing up) or coffee and biscuits and possibly a piece of fruit at home. The brioche can be plain (liscia), filled with jam ( con marmellata) or confectioners custard ( con crema), even occasionally with chocolate ( con cioccolata).
Note: For Italians cappuccino is a breakfast drink and most do not drink it after 11 am. As a foreigner though you can do what you like!
Lunch (12.30 – 1:00 in the north, 2:30-3:30 South )
Antipasti (starters) light starters typically salumi (cold hams, salami)
Primo piatto (1st course) usually rice ( risotto) or pasta (or, more rarely, soup)
Secondo piatto (2nd course) meat or fish
Contorni (side dish) vegetables (vedure) or salad (insalata) needs to be ordered separately
Dolce (desert) includes cakes, gelatos, etc but very often seasonal fresh fruit,
During the week most Italians will eat at least a primo and secondo piatto and probably fruit as well.
For a special lunch all the above will be eaten.
For a very quick snack on the run, they will have a panino (filled roll) at the bar. Typical fillings are mozzarella cheese and pomodori (tomatoes) called "caprese" or prosciutto cotto (cooked ham) or prosciutto crudo (raw ham).
Merenda (4:00) snack for children (bread, fruit, yogurt , or gelato)
Depending on the person, dinner may be a lighter meal e.g. salad or either il primo or il secondo piatto. Many Italians (especially if eating out) will have the full works again. Going out for a pizza to a pizzeria (where else?) is also very popular. Many places deliver or do carry out.
Bars are wonderful places. Usually open from 7.30, they serve breakfast in the morning, panini at lunch, gelatos mid afternoon, aperativi early evening and of course café throughout the day. Many are also sell cakes ( pasticceria).
Crepes are usually a staple in most small eateries (especially Gelato shops), but almost all the shops will serve crepes only on the winter months, this also goes for the hot chocolate.
Wine: Some of the smaller restaurants usually make their own... it's almost always incredible, In Italy they consider wine a food.
So when traveling over seas or maybe you just want to try it, it is not a bad way to eat throughout the day.
Mangiare con amore