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Eating in Italy: the 10 unforgettable rules to be like an Italian

When it comes to Italian food everyone agrees to one point: Italian cuisine is the most imitated in the world and often the one people know less about together with the Chinese one. And it is so little known in the world that when foreigners come to Italy and want to have what they consider real Italian food they often are disappointed but they also start loving the real Italian food eaten in Italy. Which rules do you have to follow if you want to eat in Italy without scaring us, the Italians?

Which are the most common myths about Italian cuisine? And which are the food rules you’ve to follow if you want to eat like an Italian, in Italy and abroad?

1. Italians don’t eat risotto as a starter
It’s not unusual to go to a dinner party outside Italy and get a risotto as a starter. In Italy a risotto is a (big) main because it’s rich and tasty. It’s not even accompanied by salad or something else: we just eat our risotto with a good glass of wine!

2. Pasta and salad don’t go together
Italians are really proud of their pasta and, as for the risotto, they don’t serve it with anything else. Nor with salad or potato chips! Pasta is a main and it’s enough to satisfy an hungry stomach;

3. Chicken carbonara doesn’t exist
This kind of pasta is topped with whipped cream, parmesan, peas and chicken. We Italians don’t even know where this dish comes from and it’s really hard to explain to the foreigners, when they’re ordering a dish in a restaurant in Italy, that in Italy there’s only one carbonara pasta, the traditional one with eggs and bacon! Check the original recipe HERE.

4. Chicken parmesan is a mythological dish
Just like the chicken carbonara, this pasta does not exist in Italy and it was created in US. Don’t even ask for a chicken parmesan in Italy because you can have a very bad experience.

5. Fettuccine Alfredo is not a traditional dish
This pasta seems to be originated in Italy but Italians don’t eat it anymore (or maybe they’ve never eaten it!). If in the US it is considered a proper and complete Italian dish, Italians consider the fettuccine Alfredo something you cannot order in a restaurant and something you eat when you’re sick. Click here for the story and the recipe of the fettuccine Alfredo.

6. Italians only drink wine or water while eating
The only exception to this rule is when you eat pizza and you can drink a soda or a beer. Never ask for a cappuccino together with pasta or a tea with a steak. Nobody will refuse to serve you what you want but the disappointment in your waiter’s face will be almost unbearable.

7. Pizza with peperoni is not pepperoni pizza
Even if you’re used to have meat on your pizza, in Italy peperoni is the plural of bell pepper. People in Italy don’t know what a pepperoni pizza is so if you want a pepperoni pizza style you have to ask for “pizza alla diavola”.

8. Mozzarella cheese is different from the real mozzarella
Mozzarella cheese is a dry cheese you can cut and eat, Italian mozzarella is a fresh cheese where milk literally leaks in your plate.

9. Italians don’t eat bread with pasta
Pasta and bread are eaten separately even if during the same dinner/lunch. Italians don’t use to serve bread with oil and vinegar or with butter. Bread is eaten together with cured meat and cheese or even as a starter/appetizer.

10. Grated cheese is not added to fish-based meals
This is a strange rule for foreigners but we don’t mix. Seafood don’t go with cheese, you can ask your waiter to have some Parmesan together with your spaghetti alle vongole but you may get a strange look if you ask for it.

Have a look at the list of the truth and the false beliefs about Italian food in the world and since we Italians do have eating rules, if you want to come to Italy and eat like an Italian these are the basics you have to know to be sure to enjoy your experience at your best! And if you want to be sure you are really experiencing the best of Italy these are the dishes you’ve to try at least once in your life.

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About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a freelance content marketer and digital strategist. She's an accredited journalist, a member of the British Guild of Travel Writer, and a certified sommelier. She's the co-owner of TheFoodellers and a bunch of other websites.
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