Dining in Italy

Dining in Italy, to those unfamiliar with the customs could become a bit frustrating. Understanding these basic "rules" will help make Italian dining a truly enjoyable experience!

Italians take a siesta for several hours in the afternoon, usually starting between 2:00 and 3:00 (1400 and 1500). Most stores and restaurants are closed at this time, so make sure to get lunch before this, or you'll go hungry for a while!

Italian restaurants generally do not open in the evening until at least 7:00 (1900) and often later. If you are used to eating an early dinner, make sure to have snacks on hand to tie you over.

Your dinner will be served with bread, and though it is put on the table automatically, it may not be free (you may see it added to your bill). It's worth the cost, but something to keep in mind before asking for more.

Italian dinners are meant to run for several hours and often include five courses: antipasto, soup or salad, first course (primo on menu - usually a pasta or risotto), second course (secondo - usually meat or seafood) and dessert. It's generally expected that people will order all five.

Often times, the chefs do not have a menu - they just bring you their favorite dishes of the day (five courses worth). Special dietary requests can be accommodated. The lack of option to order may seem rude but in fact it's a privilege - they are treating you to their premiere dishes.

You will have to ask for the check at the end of the meal, it will not be brought to you until you do.