25 Things You Didn’t Know About Italian Cuisine

You think you know all about Italian cuisine, but you have no idea.

ITALIAN FOOD
PHOTO AJ KIYOIZUMI

25. Don’t expect to see Caesar salad, Italian wedding soup, or Alfredo sauce. These are all American inventions and Italian food myths.

24. Garlic also will not be as common as you expect. Italian food is delicious because of the fresh ingredients, not an overloading of spices.

23. Finally get your Italian coffee? Don’t ask for “Half-n-Half”, because you will just receive blank stares. Not that your coffee will need any doctoring in Italy.

22. Italian soda is nonexistent in Italy. Wine is also preferred over soda at meals, but many places still have it…for the tourists.

21. Suffering from the Italian summer heat? You won’t be able to find iced coffee easily in Italy; try gelato instead.

ITALIAN FOOD
PHOTO AJ KIYOIZUMI

20. Looking for spaghetti and meatballs? You won’t find it—Italians keep their protein and pasta and/or other starches separate.

19. Italians generally have three main courses, or piatti (literally, “plates” in Italian): the first, i antipasti; the second, le paste; the third, a protein. If you wish, contorni are side dishes and that can be ordered and served separately.

18. Italian dressing is purely an American invention. Try a little bit of olive oil, a dinner-table staple in Italy.

17. Don’t throw out your receipt right away! Some caffès and bars will make you pay before ordering.

16. Pizza in Southern Italy is thin crust, and don’t go in expecting a lot of toppings. Usually two or three toppings are scarce on the pizza, but they are so fresh that you don’t need very much to have the best pizza of your life.

15. If you get bread with dinner, you won’t receive a plate or bowl to dip the bread in olive oil, even though a bottle of it will be on the table. This is because bread is used to mop up leftover sauces and flavors of your other dishes.

14. In Tuscany and disappointed with the flavor of the bread? This is because pane Toscana is unsalted so that the meats and cheeses paired with the bread won’t compete with it.

italian food
PHOTO AJ KIYOIZUMI

13. Don’t hesitate to order the house wine. It is always the cheapest, and often restaurants will give it to you for free.

12. Some restaurants will, however, serve many house wines and other wines at room temperature, not chilled.

11. Chocolate croissants often have chocolate custard in them, instead of pure chocolate.

10. Eating while walking is considered disrespectful. If someone has taken the time to prepare food, why not enjoy it fully instead of worrying about where you have to go next? This is also why you will never see an Italian with a to-go coffee cup.

9. This isn’t specifically an Italian thing, but what we call arugula, many Italian restaurants have translated on their menu as “rocket.” I highly recommend it on a panino!

8. Which brings the next point: it’s a panino, not panini (unless you are eating more than one).

7. If you order what we Americans call a pepperoni pizza, you will get a pizza with sweet bell peppers. Those peppers are spelled peperoni in Italian, with only one “p.”

italian food
PHOTO AJ KIYOIZUMI

6. As exciting as it looks, avoid the gelato piled into mini-mountains in the window—the best places don’t worry about showing off, because it is their reputation for being the best that brings in the customers.

5. If you order “un caffè,” you won’t get what we call coffee in the States, but an espresso. If you want coffee, order a caffè lungo, or caffè americano. But believe me, you will want the espresso.

4. Restaurants in large squares such as Piazza della Signoria in Florence are often very overpriced (and not generally worth the money). Try walking a block or two out of your way instead; food is never far in Italy.

3. “Aperitivo” dinners are one of the best ways to save money and to try a variety of foods. You buy a cocktail, and there is a buffet of small finger foods and appetizers that come free with the drink. Seconds and thirds are encouraged.

2. Italian “bars” are very different from the American concept of a bar. You don’t have to be twenty-one, and a bar in Italy is usually where you get an espresso and pastry for breakfast. (You also will be eating your breakfast standing up for the most part.)

1.The Italian meal is a celebration—life is good when you are enjoying a nice meal with friends or family, and should be cherished. This is why there are long gaps between courses and why dinners can run so long. Soak it in!

Article written by AJ Kiyoizumi.

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