Eating out in Italy is a joy. It is a country rich in culinary and gastronomic products and some of its dishes are amongst the best-known in the world. There is a huge choice available, from the smartest, sophisticated restaurants to the simplest of cafes and bars whether you want a sandwich, snack or a full meal. Just about all bars, cafes and restaurants in Italy are licensed so you can always have a beer or wine even with a simple sandwich.
Dinner is usually served in the late evening in Italy, especially in the hot months.
In many Italian households a 3-course meal at both lunchtime and dinner is still par for the course. Both meals begin with a primo piatto or first course which is a risotto (rice), soup (zuppa or minestrina) or a pasta dish. (Pasta is only a first course dish in Italy).
There is an infinite variety of such primi - pasta comes in many shapes and forms, depending often on the region in which you find yourself. The accompanying sauce, whether it be based on fish, meat, cheese or vegetables, should be just enough to coat the pasta. The origins of the pasta course date from poorer times when the pasta was used to help a small amount of meat or whatever ingredients were available go a long way and this tradition remains an important part of the character of pasta dishes.
Next is the main course or secondo piatto which is a meat or fish dish often simply grilled and accompanied by a side dish of 1 or 2 'contorni', vegetables cooked in a variety of ways or served plain for you to add olive oil, the usual accompaniment or dressing for plain vegetables which brings out their flavour.
The meal finishes with either a dessert, perhaps ice-cream for which Italy is so famous, or often fresh fruit of the season.
For special meals a further 4th course is added at the beginning, before the pasta, which is called an 'antipasto' which might be a selection of the local salami and meats, or perhaps in Tuscany the famous Crostini; toasted Tuscan bread with various toppings like tomatoes, pate etc, or Bruschetta; toasted bread rubbed with raw garlic and sprinkled with salt and drizzled with the local extra vergine olive oil.
- Pesto: sauce of basil, pine nuts and pecorino cheese
- Parmigiano (parmesan cheese)
- Wine is the national drink and is produced in all regions, particularly well-known are;
- Abruzzo: Trebbiano D'Abruzzo, Montepulciano d'Abruzzo
- Apulia: Primitivo di Manduria, Salice Salentino
- Calabria : Greco di Bianco, Cirò
- Campania : Greco di Tufo & Lacryma Christi
- Lazio and around Rome: Frascati, Est Est Est
- Liguria: Rossese di Dolceaqua
- Sardinia: Vermentino & Cannonau
- Sicily: Marsala and Moscato
- Tuscany: Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Vino Nobile dI Montepulciano
- Umbria: Orvieto
- Veneto: excellent prosecco's or sparkling dry white wine like champagne from Conegliano and Valdobbiadene, as well as the familiar Soave, Valpolicella, Bardolino.
- After a meal why not try the Italian espresso coffee - small, strong and aromatic!
Breakfast is a meal of little consequence to the Italians who usually take their only cappuccino of the day at breakfast along with perhaps a pastry. Hotels, however, have mostly adapted to the northern European habit and provide bread, butter, jams, honey, fruit juices etc.
The famous Italian pizza is an invention of the Neapolitans and one of the culinary prides of the Campania region where it is served in a great variety of recipes. It was originally made of bread dough, spread with herbs and tomatoes, a simply cheap and tasty form of bread sold in slices. The most common version (The Pizza Margherita) with tomatoes, herbs and mozzarella cheese was invented at Brandi's ristorante in Naples to celebrate the royal visit of the Princess Margherita to the city in the time of the Bourbons.