How to Order at
A Restaurant in Italy

How to Order at
A Restaurant in Italy

If you’re planning a river cruise of Italy or a tour around the Italian countryside, plan to enjoy delectable native cuisine found all across the country. Menu selections from simple basics like bread and olive oil to exquisitely laid-out entrees, seafood, and multiple-course meals are to be expected, and you’ll note that food and drink changes every time you enter a different province or state. But, some things will remain the same, including how you order food in Italy, and how each course comes to the table, and the high level of service you’ll receive while dining out.

The Italian Menu and Courses

Colazione (breakfast), pranzo (lunch), and cena (dinner), are the main meals in Italy.

The Italian tradition includes options for five different portions of the main meal, including an appetizer (antipasti), first course (primero), second course (secondo), a side dish (contorni), and a dessert (dulce).

Antipasti (appetizers) and carne (meat) are both served at the start of a large lunch or dinner, while dulce (dessert) will usually be some kind of gelato (ice cream), frutta (fruit), or cioccolata (chocolate).

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Ordering in Italian

“Prendo un bicchiere di (wine name), per favore.” I’ll take a glass of (wine name), please.

“Ne vorrei un altro tazzo.” I'd like another glass.

“Un piatto di affettati del sud, per favore.” – A plate of cured ham from the south, please.

“Prendiamo una bottiglia di rossa della casa, per favore.” We’ll take a bottle of house red wine, please.

How to Order Wine in Italy

To ask for extra cheese or ask if a dish has cheese in it, ask about formaggio

To order a salad, ask about selections of insalata. For more bread, ask for pane.

If you’re looking for rice, ask for “riso

For more vegetables or for a side dish of vegetables, ask for “verdura

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Unlike what you may be used to from dining out in the U.S., meals in Italy are slower-paced, and typically last at least two hours, and at least two and a half hours on Sunday afternoons, which is an ideal day and time to get a feel for authentic Italian culture across the country.

If you noticed a long break between your primero and secondo entrees, that’s because the wait staff is trained to let you enjoy your meal as you dig into your first large portion of the meal.

It’s not uncommon for Americans and other sightseers to fill up on primero and wind up taking the secondo home—but, many restaurants are unfamiliar with “doggie bags” or taking food to go, so they may not have the bags or containers you need, especially in rural and seaside towns.

Plan on eating a big meal by keeping breakfast and snacks light until you go out for dinner or a late lunch, and if you feel you’re getting full, eat sparingly so you get to enjoy all five courses.

Visit Italy and try a glass of the famous Chianti yourself!

If you've never been to Italy and had a glass of wine in Tuscany, add it to your bucket list. 

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