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10 Eating and Drinking Rules Italians live by

I saw this article in Travel & Leisure and thought some of you might enjoy it. I can't put down all 10 but I agree with each one. And it makes me miss Italy.

Godere!

https://www.travelandleisure.com/food-drink/eating-and-drinking-rules-italians-live-by

Please note #8. Italians do not dip their bread in olive oil except at first harvest to taste the olive oil. That is an American thing. Instead use the bread to mop up any extra sauce (fare la scarpetta.)

No cheese on pasta with fish sauce.

Spaghetti Bolognese, Fettucine Alfredo and Spaghetti with Meathballs are also not Italian. Instead try Tagliatelle al Ragu, Pasta/Gnocci Alla Romana and Spaghetti and Meatballs--separately, not together. (Technically, Alfredo Sauce was invented at a restaurant in Rome but became popular when the recipe was brought back to America.)

Per Favore--no pineapple on pizza.

Do not ask for Chianti outside of Chianti. Try the local wines.

Of course, you are free to break any of these Italian eating rules.

Any other American ways that we think are Italian? Besides the Olive Garden.

Posted by
423 posts

Chicken parmesan comes to mind, not a dish found in Italian cuisine. Also, the idea that Italians use large amounts of garlic in their cooking. They do not, that's an American misperception.

Posted by
5528 posts

We were told in a Florence cooking class that tiramisu is not commonly a dessert item; its more of a "after-school-snack- thing".
Also that bread before the meal was not common because "why would you want to fill up on bread before a big meal?" Bread sticks were OK however, if you must nibble.

Posted by
9500 posts

Living in Italy completely changed how I prefer coffee and we only drink espresso at home as a result. I so miss stopping in an Italian bar for a quick shot!

As to “rules” I learned there and adhere to (mostly)

  • Pizza is eaten with a knife and fork
  • Salad is often eaten after the main course (it is lighter and therefore goes “on top”)
  • Courses matter but for everyday eating you seldom eat more than two, i.e., pasta and salad or antipasto and secondo.
  • There is nothing that brings people together better than a spirited discussion about what you just ate, what you’ll eat next, and how to prepare almost anything. When one talks about food, politics go out the window.
Posted by
1137 posts

One rule I've noticed in Italy is that Italians generally think it's rude to judge other people, and particularly visitors. I've never gotten the slightest feedback for having a cappuccino after noon or dipping bread into olive oil or even butter. Some uncommon fish dishes go well with cheese and I've enjoyed them in restaurants. In somma, all generalizations are false.

Posted by
4610 posts

We have visited Italy several times, it is my favorite foreign country. Love the food.
We have found that the cuisine varies in Italy depending on what region.

One thing that I learned on my first trip to Italy was that pizza originally was a flat crust with leftovers. Lots of stuff would be placed on that crust.

Posted by
1996 posts

In Spain we also use our bread as a utensil, it must be an Ancient Roman thing lol!!

Posted by
3571 posts

I miss Italy too, but at the moment, I miss everywhere.
I would love to attend one of the big family dinners, but am no good at food conversation. My Mother was too fixated on food and so I tend to shy away from prolonged discussions of it, but if it diverts from politics, I'll definitely play along.
What I actually found just as interesting, is the lead in photo. It has such a story to tell, and so represents the article. The big group disgussing and 'drinking to' something. The 2 on the left eavesdropping, or wishing they would also be included. Then I wanted to see what was on the tsble. You can enlarge the image and see the pecorino and a rustic loaf. Then the mounds of fava beans. The colour has been very enhanced. It looks like it was shot this summer rather than 1967. So the beans look fresh green, not cooked green, so I would enjoy a discussion on how to eat them.

Posted by
1858 posts

Alfredo sauce was invented

Frank II, I doubt anyone can claim he/she invented butter&parmesan pasta sauce; it would be like inventing chicken broth with cracker

Edit: Unless you mean Alfredo invented the emulsion of butter and parmesan on wet pasta... mmmm sick or not I can't imagine any Italian mother wasting time doing it... you may have a point.

some uncommon fish dishes go well with cheese

I totally agree, Mike. Imho It's just the small Mediterranean clams that shouldn't be covered with grated cheese. Their flavour is so subtle that Parmesan would completely cover it. And they are so expensive these days...

Baccalá Vicenza style, stuffed calamari, fish ravioli, pizzaiola swordfish... there is some cheese with fish in all these recipes. Baccalá is the ancient cornerstone of the Veneto cuisine. I cook mussels with black cabbage leaves and roman pecorino cheese.

Posted by
9074 posts

Dario:

History of Alfredo Sauce: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fettuccine_Alfredo#:~:text=Modern%20fettuccine%20Alfredo%20was%20invented,run%20by%20his%20mother%20Angelina.&text=Alfredo%20added%20extra%20butter%20or,mixing%20it%20together%20for%20her.

I didn't say no cheese with fish dishes. I wrote no cheese ON PASTA and fish sauce. (And that's want I've been told by Italian friends.) That means no ADDING cheese to a pasta dish with fish sauce. If it's already in the recipe, that's up to the chef.

Posted by
661 posts

I didn't say no cheese with fish dishes. I wrote no cheese ON PASTA and fish sauce. (And that's want I've been told by Italian friends.) That means no ADDING cheese to a pasta dish with fish sauce. If it's already in the recipe, that's up to the chef.

This reminds me of eating at a very small true local Italian place in Siena for lunch. A group of four Americans came for lunch. Two of them selected a pasta seafood dish. When it arrived they asked the waiter for cheese. The owner almost had a stroke. He yelled, "no cheese, no cheese" and walked to their table and explained the Italian rule. They still wanted the cheese, the waiter gave it to them and the owner smiled, turned away and rolled his eyes in a "mama mia" fashion. One of those classic moments, I will always remember.

Posted by
4162 posts

We were told in a Florence cooking class that tiramisu is not commonly a dessert item; its more of a "after-school-snack- thing

I wonder whether there was much coffee in that after-school Tiramisu? And any alcohol? Probably not. Unless this was for after-university-class students, not 8 year olds?

Posted by
4162 posts

As for some people who want grated Parmigiano Reggiano on any dish, there could also be people who LOVE chocolate syrup. Wonder if they’d want it poured on fish, salad, what-have-you?

And does every restaurant in Italy have red and white checkered tablecloths? I don’t think so.

Posted by
9074 posts

And does every restaurant in Italy have red and white checkered tablecloths? I don’t think so

Every restaurant I have been to in Italy had red and white checkered tablecoths. And a guy with an accordion wandering around singing "O Solo Mio." All the wine bottles said Chianti and were partially covered in whicker. Strands of garlic decorated the arches. And every waiter had a mustache. Even the women.

Posted by
337 posts

Spaghetti Bolognese (Italian: ragù alla bolognese, ragù bolognese, or simply ragù) is Italian. While Bologna is given credit for it the earliest documented recipe for a ragù served with pasta comes from late 18th century Imola, near Bologna.

Posted by
661 posts

I have always asked this question about the American Chicken Parmesan dish. Why is it made with mozzarella cheese 99.9% of the time? Should it be called Chicken Mozzarella?

Posted by
1858 posts

Spaghetti Bolognese (Italian: ragù alla bolognese, ragù bolognese, or simply ragù) is Italian

Sure, all Italians eat a bolognese sauce with a Neapolitan, shape of pasta made without eggs. If I Were you, I wouldn't try to tell the same joke in Bologna. It takes years to learn how to make the fresh tagliatelle from Bologna. A blind monkey could use the pasta making machine used for dried types like spaghetti.

The Neapolitan ragù is completely different from the sauce made in Bologna, the former is made slowly cooking scrap meat for 6 to 10 hours. Both are Ragù in Italian, but they are quite different and many wouldn't like the thick Neapolitan version.

They still wanted the cheese

A fool and his money are soon parted. He could have sold them microwaved seashells out of a can and they wouldn't have noticed it because of the cheese.

We were told in a Florence cooking class that tiramisu is not commonly a dessert item;

It may be true in Florence, but the restaurant that invented Tiramisù in the late 60s put it on the menù as a dessert to be eaten before fruit. That menù is still worshiped as a relic in Treviso. Unfortunately, the cook working there told he was inspired by german patisserie, but there is no need to spread such voices...

History of Alfredo Sauce: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fettuccine_Alfredo#:~:text=Modern%20fettuccine%20Alfredo%20was%20invented,run%20by%20his%20mother%20Angelina.&text=Alfredo%20added%20extra%20butter%20or,mixing%20it%20together%20for%20her.

Frank: Mom making butter & parmesan pasta when you are sick may be the only Italian childhood memory that's shared from Trieste to Trapani. If someone had invented such an easy, trivial and famous recipe Italians would know who Alfredo is. On the contrary, nobody out of Rome knows who this guy is, why Americans ask about him and who would ever pay for a dish anyone can make at home.

Posted by
2256 posts

Frank II and others, I thought pizza with pineapple was a dish that Marco Polo brought home from Hawaii. No?

Posted by
2448 posts

I plan to tune in to “Searching for Italy” tonight on CNN @ 9pm EST, 6pm PST. Host Stanley Tucci will be visiting & eating his way through Bologna & region. Looking forward to his version of Bolognese!

Posted by
1572 posts

I posted this on Jane's new thread as well, but this is for MariaF, in case she doesn't see it there:

At Ristorante Acquacheta in Montepulciano, Italia, the host seated us at a table with Roberto and Anna, a couple from the Abruzzo region. They ordered fava beans and received a huge, HEAPING platter of fresh beans. Anna proceeded to break each pod in half and then shoot each small bean into her mouth. Her husband noted, "She is like a machine!" One of our favorite memories (2004).

Posted by
4162 posts

Every restaurant I have been to in Italy had red and white checkered tablecoths. And ...

Frank II, am I right that every one of those restaurants also had a plastic, or maybe plaster mannequin out front, of a chubby chef, complete with tall toque, holding up a menu, or holding out a tray, inviting all to come and order the wares? Kind of like an Italian Big Boy, except not 8 feet tall maybe only 4 feet high, and probably black and white checkered pants, with no checkered overalls. And yes, with a big mustache.

Posted by
3571 posts

Thanks Janet. What a fun memory. Something to try when it is fresh fava bean season. Hmm. Wonder if I can get them that fresh at local markets. I have onlynjad the dried or starchy.

Posted by
31185 posts

<"Frank II and others, I thought pizza with pineapple was a dish that Marco Polo brought home from Hawaii. No?"

I believe pizza with pineapple is a Canadian invention - https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/as-it-happens-tuesday-edition-1.3991263/canadian-inventor-of-hawaiian-pizza-defends-pineapple-after-iceland-s-president-disses-fruit-topping-1.3992890 .

Regarding the question of Ragu / Bolognese, this explanation sounds quite plausible - https://www.lonelyplanet.com/a/nar/68076ddb-5b92-43c1-9935-bfcfb7f5c2ed/359886 .

And also this article - https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/the-real-ragu-10-things-you-didnt-know-about-authentic-spaghetti-bolognese .

Tucci's show tonight covered several of the famous food cities in Emilia-Romagna, such as Modena (Balsamico), Parma (Prosciutto) and I believe Bibbiano (Parmigiano), with a stop in Rimini at the end to cover some Fellini history. I found it quite interesting and reminded me of how much I miss travelling in Italy.

Posted by
4213 posts

The beauty of food is adaptation. That is why everyone loves spaghetti bolognese, who cares if it was traditionally tagliatelli with a thick ragu, the concept has been taken and changed into something different. Pizza can be eaten any way you like, I've seen Italians eat it folded with their hands and equally with a knife and fork, I don't think anyone really cared how they were eating it. I've drunk Siciliian wine in Rome, no-one batted an eyelid least of all the restaurant owner who served it, after all, why else would he stock it if it wasn't a good wine that paired well with the food?

Some people who are too precious about cusine and what's 'right' or 'wrong', they need to relax a bit.

Posted by
1858 posts

It's not a matter of relaxing, it takes 1,250 hours to build a Rolls-Royce and 15 to build a Ford Pinto. Even if I love the old Pinto my father drove when I was a kid, I'd rather drive a Rolls because a RR is objectively better. And safer, like good food.

An Italian ragù should simmer for hours, pour it over an egg-Iess smooth pasta like spaghetti (that by "accident" are 3 times cheaper than tagliatelle) and the chef will have to add flour to it. Believe me: 3 seconds after adding a sealing agent, any chef would start wondering what's the point of spending hours to make a good, naturally thick ragù. Then he will realize that spaghetti can be stored in the restaurant basement for weeks, whereas tagliatelle must be made fresh three times a week, if not any given day. Then he will compare the salary of the guy that makes those tagliatelle with the salary of the guy that brings spaghetti boxes up from the basement. This road leads to rubbish factories with no chefs inside, where people dines because kids want the Happy Meal. 20 years later those kids will defend the rubbish they grew up with saying that all tastes are tastes...

It's not that the bolognese didn't try other options, it's that they have already made any possible mistake and now they know how to build a Rolls-Royce. Everyone is free to be scammed, but defending the freedom of being scammed is quite odd.

Posted by
4162 posts

Speaking of scams, and of last night’s Stanley Tucci episode on CNN, the program showed the recent attempt by some pig producers to introduce pig DNA from a different, Danish breed into prosciutto production. The resultant meat didn’t look or taste right, besides violating the strict prosciutto requirements.

And Oscar Mayer isn’t bologna, to Bolognese.

Posted by
178 posts

I like to answer to food treads, being Italian, doing food tour and because I'm studying history of food during lockdown.

Butter+cheese on pasta was probably the oldest way to eat pasta like we do now. In the Middleage pasta was only a side (boiled in broth) for other preparation, usually roasted meat. For rich people, of course. Normal people cannot often eat meat, so they eat only pasta, boiled in water and dressed with butter and cheese. Boccaccio in his Decameron wrote about the Bengodi (the land where everything is wealthy and goodness) that there was a mountain of Parmesan cheese and on the top cookers whom boil pasta and the pasta rolled along the mountain sides being soaked with the cheese.
The same dressing for pasta was used even in the abstinence periods (Friday, Wednesday, Lent....). People cannot eat meat, so pasta with butter was a good and suitable thing to be eaten. From the XIV century where recorder in recipe books even tools to eat the pasta with butter: at the beginning only sticks, later forks.
Before the use of fork everything was eaten only by hands, maybe with the help of bread. Imagine a meal where you eat hot pasta soaked of butter only with hands! Probably forks where invented for that use.
That answer even to the habit to eat things using the bread as tools: it survived in some tradition (like "fare la scarpetta"), in some European regions (like Carlos says), or in some culture (like in northern Africa to eat cous-cous). 8 centuries ago was normal everywhere in the World (except China, where they used sticks)!

About Spaghetti alla bolognese the last book of Massimo Montanari "Bologna, l'Italia in tavola" (in Italian, but greatly recommend) helps a lot to define the history of this dish. First appears in Turin and was called "Napolitan spaghetti alla Bolognese". Was the end of XIX century, when the Bologna's ragù start to became famous.
Was the period after Italian unification, when recipes where created mixing element of different areas of Italy. Is not a traditional dish of Bologna, but is for sure a traditional Italian dish. Probably the name is misleading, because seems a reference to a city where wasn't invented, but we have a lot of examples is the Italian tradition: "English soup" or "Russian salad", as to say the most famous!

About the original article. Well.... to be honest... is a little too much sentimental in my opinion (like the red and white tablecloth and waiter with moustache, as you say!).
Keep it fresh? I believe the 60% of Italians don't know about seasonality of a product. Less to say about freshness, when the most of Italian vegetables and fruits are harvested not ripe and stored in refrigerators for weeks or months. But is true that in street market often you find better products: better is purchase directly on the streets from the farmer.
Courses: in an official meals yes, there are several ones in the right order. At home in a daily meal often you eat only "first" or "second" and a piece of cake. Maybe a little of charcuterie or cheese.
Bread etiquette: that one is wrong, really. Bread should be eaten with everything in Italian tradition. Yes: even with pasta! In fact in Italian we dived the food in two groups: "pane e companatico" = bread and whatever else you eat with it. This is cultural from Mediterranean area: bread is life and is what made mankind. So nobody claim if you eat bread before lunch (in fact in all Italian restaurant the waiter serve you a big basket full of different kind of breads when you sit down), shovel the sauce, eat it with meat of fish and maybe even a little bit with a sweat cream or chocolate.
Olive oil: even this topic isn't completely true. We use different kind of "fats" to cook or dress. Olive oil (extra vergine, of course), seeds oil, butter, lard... It depends by the area of Italy and the recipe.

Posted by
4213 posts

Dario, I feel you're missing my point.

Whenever I've eaten a bolognaise sauce in Italy (I've given up a long time now) I always found it to be insipid and made far too quickly and the meat is always too finely minced. When I make spaghetti bolognaise (or tagliatelle or parpadelle or even, heaven forbid.....penne, depending on how I feel) my ragu takes several hours in order to develop the rich, balanced flavours. It doesn't matter what pasta I'm serving it with, that's simply the carriage for the ragu which is the important component. My point about being relaxed is not to get hung up about the precise type of pasta to accompany it or what it's called. Likewise with pizza, eat it with your hands or with a knife and fork.....who cares, relax, no-one's judging you.

Posted by
307 posts

One thing I learned on my first visit to Italy, is that there is Italian cooking and there is Italian-American cooking. That should not be surprising. I remember my Nana telling us that in the Italy she came from meat was a luxury one had maybe once or twice a week. When she arrived in America and found she could have it almost daily, well..... Where do you think spaghetti and meat balls came from?

Cappuccino after 10:00 AM? Several Italian friends will do that from time to time. It's not a crime, just not something done normally. OTOH, regional food sources seem to be sacred. My friend in Rome considers a Pecorino cheese made in the mountains near his wife's home town is superior to any other because they store it in a cave that has special environmental conditions that affect its aging. It was good. Very good.

Posted by
5499 posts

Everyone sounds more authentic than a workmate who told me she cooked "Eye-talian" by pouring canned tomato sauce over a dish. Luckily, I was never invited over for dinner!

Posted by
63 posts

I can't tell you how much I am enjoying this thread! I feel like I am in Italy; people are arguing (in a friendly way), raising their voices, waving their hands and showing their passion for food!! Bravo.

Posted by
4162 posts

I’m discovering more and more varied authentic pasta shapes exist, and am now learning that so many of them are linked to a particular region, or town in Italy. I suspect, though, that no Pasta Granny in an old-world village ever dreamt up Spaghetti-O’s. Talk about an American concept of Eye-talian!

And what’s with the manufacturer of that round, canned, overcooked kid’s pasta: Franco-American??? So French and American, supposedly providing a taste of Italy?

If you want canned Italian in the USA, go for the products where they had to try to break out the chef’s name, so it could somehow be pronounced properly - Chef Boy-ar-dee (Boiardi). Beefaroni and Beef Ravioli. Do they sell that anywhere in Italy, and are the cans metric-sized? Is it in the “American food” section of an aisle in the Carrefour supermarket?