Dining in Italy


The magic of an Italian meal

Italy is rich with fabulous restaurants, some fancy, some modest, some country, some urban. They all have one thing in common: they offer great food. In Addition to regular restaurants there are: the autogrill, roadside snack bar; the osteria, an informal place; the trattoria, which is a medium priced, often family run eating establishment; the pizzeria, specializing in pizzas of the region; the paninoteca, where sandwiches and salads are often available, and the tavola calda, which features a buffet of hot or cold dishes to eat in or take out. Enotecas were wine bars years ago, but now they they serve small portions of food (assaggi) along with samplings of local wines.

If you just want a sandwich, you can go to a bar. A bar in Italy is similar to a café in the U.S. People go to the bar for their morning coffee and pastry, to grab a sandwich, and even to buy ice cream. Some bars also serve a few pasta or salad selections, so if you just want one course, that's a good choice.

Dinner in Italy is often much later than in the U.S. If you want to eat with the locals, eat late. And the farther south you move the later people eat. Lunch, between noon and two, is sometimes followed by a quick nap. Restaurants close between lunch and dinner. In larger cities, you may find restaurants open
all afternoon.

Both il servizio (service charge/tip) and il coperto (cover charge for bread and water) are usually included in il conto (the bill). By Italian law, the gratuity is included in the bill, and extra tipping isn't necessary. If the service deserves it, leave your waiter a little extra.

If your budget is tight, consider the prix fixe menu, called menu turistico or prezzo fisso. It usually is a good buy as it often includes at least two courses, cover and service charges.


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