Eating Out

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The following information will assist you in choosing the correct establishment for your tastes and pocketbook. There are 5 general types of eating and drinking establishments.

Café’/Bar, Pasticceria
Open from early morning to late at night. Wine, liquor, beer and coffee are sold. Most bars have sandwiches, called a panini or toast, and perhaps chips. Others may have a small selection of pastries. Bathrooms (toilette/WC) are usually available. At large bars, such as in Autostrada, airports or railroad stations, tell the cashier what you want and pay for it. Take the receipt to the waiter or counter for your order to be filled.

Pizzeria
Pizzerias are open in the evenings and sometimes at lunch. Pizza is much thinner in Italy and is listed by name on the menu. All of the ingredients will appear underneath. If you order a “pepperoni pizza”, you will be brought a pizza covered in bell peppers, which is exactly what you ordered. To have the American pepperoni look for the ingredient “salamino piccante” or the “Diavola”.

Trattoria
Open from about Noon – 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.
A trattoria is a simple restaurant and is usually family owned. Dinner is usually served in a separated area and behind the bar. Prices are fair for the type of food, which is simple and served in a home-like atmosphere.

Osteria
Open from late morning to late evening. Similar to a bar except they primarily serve wine & home-style-cooking. It’s a place where Italian men meet to chat or play cards and the women drop in for a quick cup of coffee.

Agriturismo
Italian agritourism is an original form of tourism in the countryside that has developed in Italy over the last thirty years. It means a stay in the country, either in rooms, apartments, complete housing units or camping sites made available to guests. You will enjoy a country meal with simple organic ingredients grown, raised, made in the farm, which can sometimes also be highly refined. Often available are their homemade delicatessen and a wide variety of outdoor activities (walking, hiking, horseback riding, cycling, fishing, sports or simply sunbathing).

Doggie Bag
It is inconceivable in Italy to take the remaining restaurant meal with you in a “doggie bag” or “to-go” bag. You can eat every course or choose any combination. The meal ends with IL DOLCE (the desserts), CAFFE (coffee) and a DIGESTIVO (a digestive drink-generally alcoholic) or SGROPPINO (lemon ice-cream and vodka).

Ristorante
Open from approx. Noon – 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. – 11 p.m. This is the highest form of eating establishment often with “atmosphere.” Reservations are strongly recommended. The reason is because the table will be most likely used for the entire evening. There is no fast turn over at the restaurants. Mealtimes in Italy are different from the U.S. Italians tend to eat after 8 p.m. and even 9 p.m. in the summer months. Printed menus are common but not always available, especially in Trattorias & Osterias. When the menu is not printed, the waiter informs you of that day’s specials. They usually will tell you all the courses at once. First the ANTIPASTO (appetizer), next the PRIMO PIATTI (soup, rice or pasta), next IL SECONDO (the main course usually meat or fish), then finally IL CONTORNO (vegetables or salad).


Helpful Tips

To tip or not to tip?
Italians generally do not tip in restaurants, coffee bars, Trattorias and Pizzerias. Also keep in mind that all the prices that you see in restaurants or stores are the final price. You do not need to add any tax or tip.

House Wine
In many Italian Trattorie, you can get a low-cost house wine (white or red) in 1/4, 1/2, or one liter bottles. Local wines are part of the authentic Italian food experience.

Cover and Service Charges
Most restaurants charge “COPERTO”, will be listed separately on your bill a minimal (1-3 euro) cover charge which includes the cost of bread, table settings, etc.

About Water
Acqua gassata (pronounced “gasata”) or frizzante (“fritz-antay”) have bubbles, naturale does not. While tap water is safe to drink all over Italy, Italians usually drink bottled water because they prefer the taste (not because the restaurants are looking for an excuse to make you pay more). You can insist on tap water, but be aware that in most parts of Italy it is very hard (lots of calcium), and you may not like the flavor. In some facilities the local water is served in decanters and it is purified thru a filter system. Anywhere else, it can be difficult to get tap water brought to your table, but, if you want to try, ask for acqua del rubinetto.

Sitting or Standing
At many/most bars you will be charged more if you occupy a table, even if you fetch your drinks/snacks from the bar yourself. The more desirable the location (e.g., Saint Mark’s Square in Venice), the more ridiculous the price of a cup of coffee at a table. If you just want coffee, have it standing up at a little bar on a side street. If you want to rest your feet and enjoy the view, be prepared to pay for that.

Restaurant Recommendations
There are a lot of great restaurants around the region. Ask your friends and coworkers for recommendations, be sure to try them all!


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