Manners, Per Piacere! Follow These Dining Tips When Eating In Italy

It's all happening. Your Italian foodie dreams are coming true and, let's be real, they're largely fueled by having watched the second season of Master Of None. You've secured that coveted ressie at Piazza Duomo. You've brushed up on your Italian and packed the most Instagrammable outfit around. The last thing to plan? How not to look like a tourist!

When it comes to travel, there are two types of travelers. Those who make an effort to fit in to the local culture and those who don't give AF. Those who talk loudly, coat their food in condiments. and drink like Thirsty Thursday is going out of style. Here's how not to be that guy. 

True, we Americans may have nearly 150 years of Emily Post’s etiquette wisdom, but the Italians have us beat by a few hundred years. Their definitive tome on table manners is known as Il Galateo and it dates back to the Renaissance when Italy was ground zerro for all things etiquette!

So, here's the deal: remember cotillion classes as a kid? You’ll want to channel before dining in Italy. Okay, sure, you can keep things super casual if you're noshing on street food or at a pizzeria. But, if you’ve snagged a table at one of the World's 50 Best restaurants or just got invited to a more classic (read white tablecloth) ristorante, you may want to brush up on your table manners.

Here are 10 tips to follow when eating in Italy:

Use The Right Utensil

Some of the more classic restaurants will still have really classic service with white tablecloths, multiple waiters, and even multiple utensils. For example, if you order fish at one of those more old-school restaurants, they might serve it with a fish fork and knife. How you can tell is that the fork looks about the size of salad fork and the knife is like a larger, pointier butter knife.

Use the knife (with the help of the fork) to remove the skin of the fish and to spread any sauce on the fish itself.

Show Of Hands

Our mothers made it crystal clear that the gauche act of placing our elbows on the table is a cardinal sin. But just because your elbows aren’t dinner guests doesn't mean your hands can stay hidden, folded in your lap. Go ahead and keep your hands in plain view while resting your wrists on the table, since this is the Italian way of feasting.

No Public Intoxication

We're at the age where the thought of studying abroad is a mix of fond memories and some pretty horrid hangovers. Yes, you’ll inevitably indulge in some of most decadent wine, but keep your wits about you. There’s nothing tackier than a drunk foreigner. Italians don’t drink to get drunk...

In Fact, Alcohol Usually Goes With Food

Italians do not have a culture of sipping cocktails or chugging pitchers of beer sans food. You'll find that locals drink cocktails when out at a bar or part of aperitivo but, more often than not, food is an integral part of the social scene. 

Toasting Superstitions

Italian culture is notorious for being superstitious, and it even affects the way they toast. In order to dodge bad luck, avoid toasting with water or crossing glasses during a celebratory “cheers.” Instead, toast with wine while making eye-contact and say “Salute!” or “Cin cin.”

Hold The Ketchup

Chefs are highly offended by the use of condiments on their meals, as it’s seen as masking the original flavor. While permissible for a burger or fries, it’s best to leave it at that.

Standing Room Only

When you go to a "bar" (which, by the way is often more a coffee shop), you may pay two to three times more if you decide to rest at a table. Instead, make like the locals and stand at the counter!

Oh, And Sometimes You Pay Before You Eat

For those who decide to stand at the bar, you actually pay before you eat. Especially common at coffee bars, you usually pay a cashier for what you plan to have, then take the receipt to the bar and order. How to know what process to follow? Just take a cue from the locals.

You Have To Ask For The Check

When you’ve finished your meal and are ready to go, ask for the check (il conto). Unless it’s well past closing time, a waiter won’t put a bill on your table til it’s been requested. 

Tipping Is Appreciated (But By No Means Mandatory)

While it’s encouraged to leave behind a monetary thanks, you are able to scale back on the tipped amount. Instead of a 20% gratuity charge, a 10% contribution is standard.

Any other tips you've learned while traveling in Italy? Leave them below!

More Italy On Salt & Wind

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P.S. If you liked this story, you'll probably like our newsletter too! 

P.P.S. Hitting the road soon? Show us how you travel in good taste by sharing your adventures on Instagram with the #swsociety hashtag!

Opening photo by Brooke Lark

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