The most common stereotype about Italians is the immediate association with pizza, spaghetti, and mafia.
I am about to tell you a couple of secrets:
- It drives us nuts,
- because we all know that Italy is much more than that. It’s true that we have the best food tradition in the world, but Italy also prides itself on the best artists, scientists, the world’s best fashion, and the best style, and we come from the foundation of western culture and history…to mention just a few of the reasons why you will love my country.
Now, having said that, we do have an obsession with food and we believe that we have the finest food in the world, which might not be true if you are Jamaican, or Spanish for example. There is never an absolute truth.
However, we are indeed very jealous of our culinary traditions and we horrify when we hear all those fake Italian dishes around the world or weird distortion of the original plate.
We are judgmental when it comes to food and fashion but also culture and tradition as we are too proud of our heritage. That’s not necessarily a good thing, I know.
But as the old saying goes when in Rome do as the Romans do, I thought some guidelines on what not to do when you are in Italy will help you enjoy your trip to Italy the Italian way and finally taste the real Italian flavor, and not the crap that they make you believe anywhere else.
I promise you will never turn back!
And yes, it’s going to be all about food.
After all, I am Italian.
Are you ready?
Do not order Pizza with pineapple!
It’s just gross.
I put it first because it’s the biggest insult, and no matter how much I have traveled and how openminded I think I am, pizza with pineapple is not pizza.
It even feels disgusting writing it. How do you dare order such a horrible combination of dishes?
In any case, you are free to eat whatever you want, just don’t order a pizza with pineapple in Italy, you run the risk to get deported.
The face of the waiter if you order a pineapple pizza
When you want to order an espresso, just ask for a coffee!
Every time I go back to Italy and I go to a bar, I ask for an espresso and they look at me as if I asked the strangest thing in the world.
The reason is that in Italy there is no other coffee than expresso.
Espresso is THE ONLY coffee.
If you want something different, such as an Americano, cappuccino, and so forth, you have to be specific, but if you order an espresso, just say a coffee. (un Caffe, per favore= a coffee please) .
Do not order a latte
In Italy we don’t have such a beverage that is called latte, or, better said, if you order a latte they will serve you a glass of plain milk. So if you want a replica of your Starbucks latte, explain exactly what you want to the waiter, especially if you are in a less touristic area.
Cappuccino doesn’t go with meals
We don’t drink cappuccino together with meals.
It’s gross, and also indigestible.
We normally have a cappuccino for breakfast, preferably with a croissant.
In rare cases we have another cappuccino in the middle of the day but not with meals.
Do not order pasta Alfredo
I am sorry to break your heart but Pasta Alfredo doesn’t exist, in Italy. It’s just not an Italian dish.
So forget about it when you are here and enjoy some authentic food.
If you find it on the menu, it means that it is not a good restaurant and they just want to serve what tourists are expecting.
My suggestion, in this case, is get up and chose a different restaurant.
Do not put parmesan cheese on seafood pasta
I have to confess about this one, some Italians do it, but if you want to eat the real Italian style, avoid this combination.
It just doesn’t taste correct.
Do not order a risotto alla Milanese in Naples
Although you have a great chance to eat a good pizza almost everywhere, you must know that the original pizza is in Naples, the risotto and osso buco are from Milan, the tagliatelle and tortellini are from Bologna, and the Pasta all’ amatriciana is from Rome.
Italian cuisine is great (almost) everywhere you go but you need to choose the local dishes to get the best of every place. If you don’t know what’s the typical dish, ask the waiter, they will be happy to assist you if they speak English. If they don’t, they will communicate in some way. Worry not.
You don’t need a spoon to eat spaghetti
We Italians are very judgmental and we make fun of foreigners when it comes to food and fashion. But in a nice way, of course. One of the things that make us laugh is when we see people eating spaghetti with a spoon because it’s simply not Italian. I know, there is nothing wrong with doing it, it’s not that you are ordering a pizza with pineapple, but still, if you can learn how to roll the spaghetti around your fork without the help of the spoon, you get more “Italian style scores”.
And if you think about it, it’s exactly the same wrist movement, but instead of using the spoon as a base, you would use the plate. Try it and let me know how it goes! I am sure you will do great!
Oh and the spaghetti must not be cut!
Don’t order butter for your bread, instead use it for the “scarpetta”
When you go out for dinner or lunch you will be served bread, different kinds of delicious bread which you can eat either while waiting for your meal if you are starving and can’t wait for the plate to come or to clean up your plate when you are done. This is called “fare la scarpetta” and although it can seem gross, it’s a common thing in Italy and socially accepted. And no we don’t use butter on bread. This is something mums used to prepare for their kids for “merenda”. At 4 pm it’s snack time for kids and some of the old treats, bread with butter and sugar. Ah, yes we don’t even have salted butter, although somewhere you might even find it now.
Don’t ask for ranch dressing for your salad
Forget about whatever you are using to dress your salad and say hello to your new friend the super healthy Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and balsamic vinegar.
And now you will finally find out what’s the flavor of salad is and you might even like it.
Don’t ask for pepperoni pizza and expect this
I am sorry to destroy a myth, but first of all, “Pepperoni” is not salame (aka salami) in Italy, it’s peperone (with one P) and it stands for sweet pepper.
If you want “salame” in the pizza, it’s accepted (as long as you don’t ask the pineapple with it) and you can either ask a pizza margherita with salame on it or you can order a pizza alla diavola which includes salame.
Yes, adding ingredients to your pizza is acceptable, as long as it’s not pineapple. I know I am obsessed with this one. Sorry!
That’s all you need to know for now. I might add more stuff when I remember. If you have something else to add, please be my guest and let me know in the comments below.
I hope you didn’t get offended.
I was joking… or not, but for sure Please do not ask for pineapple pizza!!
You are all welcome to visit our beautiful country and please forgive us if we don’t speak your language or we are not so welcoming sometimes.
We do love you all and we look forward to showing you our treasures.
Italian vocabulary essential
Grazie = thank you
Prego = you are welcome/ Please (as in Please follow me)
Benvenuto/a/i/e = welcome M/F/PM/PM
In bocca al lupo= good luck (literally in the mouth of the wolf)
Crepi il lupo= (in reply to in bocca lupo, literally, Let the wolf die)
Buon appetit0 = Enjoy your meal (although according to the etiquette it’s not correct to say it)
Un caffe’ per favore = a coffee’, please
Il conto per favore = the bill please
Quanto costa?= how much does it cost?
Qual’e’ il piatto tipico di qua?= What’s the typical dish of this city?
For Further Reading
- 5 days in Palau, home to the best Sardinia beaches
- 29 Things to Know Before Going To Italy
- 11 Things NOT To Do When Visiting Italy
- How to move around in Rome, the eternal city
- What to see and do in Rome?