A guide to dining out in Italy, from the antipasti to the dolce
11th October, 2016
Italy is home to one of
the world’s favourite cuisines, letting basic but high quality ingredients
speak for themselves in traditional and delicious dishes. Thousands of people
flock to the country every year to sample both the well-known and the
lesser-known specialties. It gets better, however, as each region has its own
sub-cuisine and local specialties, based on what is produced and grown there.
Dining is one of the most
important (and enjoyed) parts of the day in Italy; an evening meal can last
hours as the diners relax and take their time in enjoying their food and wine
amongst good company. It’s an unrivalled experience and one you are sure to
enjoy during your stay at our luxury villas in Italy.
Italian restaurants do
things slightly differently to other places in Europe, so here’s our guide to
dining out in Italy.
While you’ll usually find
menus in UK restaurants split into three sections, in Italy, the menu is split
into five. Beginning with the antipasti, a small appetiser which can be shared
with the table, follows the first course, second course, side dish (which
accompanies the second course) and the dolce (dessert). If that sounds like a
lot of food, you’ll be glad to hear that Italians don’t always opt for all five
courses. Instead, people will often choose a dish from at least two of the
These are similar to
appetisers and offer you the chance to sample a variety of regional specialties
without having to commit to ordering a full dish. Antipasti can consist of a
variety of foods, and usually include meats such as salami and mortadella, as
well as local cheese varieties and cooked vegetables.
Primo – the first course
The primo is larger than
the antipasti, offering more than just bite-sized pieces. It’s typically a hot
dish, and you can choose from a variety of things which typically include
risotto, gnocchi and soups. Pasta dishes will also feature, with the type of
pasta expertly paired to the qualities of the sauce used. As the two are so
well-matched, the sauce is used sparingly, in order to bring out the texture of
Secondo – the second
The secondo is generally
regarded as the main course of the meal, with the focus of the plate being meat
or seafood. Depending on the region, you’ll find a variety of dishes served up,
ranging from pork to cod, lobster and chicken, with a couple of vegetarian
options also often featured. They normally do not include any vegetables or
other sides, as they are served as the contorni (side dish).
Contorni – side dishes
These are served
alongside the second course and usually consist of vegetables, which are cooked
in a variety of ways, such as grigliate (grilled), lessate (boiled) and al
forno (oven roasted).
Dolce – dessert
Translating into sweet,
the dolce is the dessert course and the final course of an Italian meal.
Desserts offered vary by region, but among them you may find such classics as
gelato, panna cotta, tiramisu and zuppa inglese. Formaggi e frutta (cheese and
fruit) may also be an option, though this may also feature as yet another
course. A cup of coffee is also usually offered after dessert, served hot,
strong and without milk.