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What Is Al Fresco Dining? The Meaning Of The Term & Recommendations

Updated on December 14, 2012

These guys are really feeling it..

Al Fresco literally translated from italian means 'in jail'. Italians don't use the term al fresco to describe eating outside, but to English speakers, al fresco means eating outside and most people think that is its Italian meaning.

Although technically incorrect, the majority of English speakers now associate al fresco with outside dining, as language evolves the majority vote is what counts, so that is now the meaning of the term. Just don't use it in Italy as they may wonder why you want to eat in prison.

Eating outside is one my favourite pastimes. In my opinion food just tastes better if it is eaten outside and I think it improves it further if that food is eaten with hands rather than utensils. This means I'm a big fan of barbecues!

The restaurant linked in the youtube video shown there is my idea of a great al fresco dining experience. Good food, warm weather, a sea view, no shoes, fish swimming around. I sometimes holiday in Thailand and that restaurant is a venue at which I really enjoyed dining. I think you can see why!

To get a good al fresco experience, you need to make sure that you have a good view, have good company, ideally have good weather, or at least not be uncomfortable and the last thing, is have good food. My best al fresco dining experiences have not always been related to the food I've eaten, usually the location and company are the most important things, but great food obviously makes the experience better.

Eating here is a treat!

My best al fresco dining experiences

I can remember some of the best outdoor dining experiences I've ever had.

One of those was in Melbourne in Australia. We rented a car and took a barbecue with us around the beaches south of Melbourne. On one of the beaches, we found a seawater pool that had been left by the tide going out. Although these sort of pools are normally shallow and warm, this was a wide, deep and relatively cold pool. Swimming across it took some time as it was several hundred feet wide. Of course when you're on holiday with several friends, then taking it in turns to do this is what you do and the appetite you build up afterwards is enormous! The barbecued steak and prawns we cooked still count as one my favourite meals ever eaten.

Another awesome meal came from a motorbike trip that I took with my friend around Thailand. We were riding out motorbikes around the south of the country. After a day on the road, we came across a restaurant that was on stilts over the water. They had a holding area by the side of the restaurant, which was in the water, netted off with fish swimming around in there. After we ordered a fish each, the waiters caught a couple of big fish from the holding nets, clubbed them to death in front of us, then served them up a few minutes later. Although my mate got horrendous food poisoning from his fish, it was still a very memorable occasion.

Not a bad venue for a feast...

Eating in the caribbean is excellent in my experience. The cuisine there is generally goat, sheep and fish based, with a lot of curries. On one memorable day, we had rented a boy with boat to take us to an island. There were a few of us there and once there we set about swimming and snorkeling around the island, while the boat boys set about making us a barbecued feast. When it came to eating time, we got stuck in to some fantastic curried goat, barbecued fish, fried plaintain and lots of other dishes. I couldn't get enough and after demolishing a fully piled up plate, went back for seconds. The man serving up the marvellous food seemed to appreciate my appetite for his local cooking and served me up another fully loaded plate while commenting on my desire for seconds; 'If it's nice, then eat it twice'. I still say this to this day and can still remember how delicious this meal was!

My last memorable meal was in India. After another day on the motorbike, we had come across a ferry crossing that we needed to get across to continue the journey. The ferry was not there. With some time to kill we ordered some food. If you have never eaten in India, I can highly recommend it. A meal each, including a drink, came to something like $1. They didn't have any bananas for our banana milkshake, so off went a boy on a scooter. 10 minutes later he came back with a fresh bunch hacked off a tree, a couple of minutes later they were mixed up and in front of us. I ended up tipping the place more than the cost of the meal, as it was absolutely excellent.

So what am I saying?

I think that eating outside enriches any meal. If you don't do it often, or at all, then try it the next time the weather is good.

You can eat any meal outside and something about sitting out in the fresh air, with the trees rustling and everybody laughing, just makes everything taste better.

If you have any comments, please leave them below.

Happy feasting!


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    • Tolovaj profile image


      4 years ago

      Al fresco sounds a bit adventurous, especially when you mentioned food poisoning. Well, everything what is going on outside can be risky, from uninvited guests to mosquitoes, ... It's part of the thrill, isn't it?

      Thanks for the stories!

    • lifelovemystery profile image

      Michelle Orelup 

      7 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      I had no idea that 'al fresco' referred to being in jail. I enjoy dining outside and I'm amused at how the term is so easily accepted!

    • Rain Defence profile imageAUTHOR

      Rain Defence 

      7 years ago from UK

      James, thanks! Barbecue season is nearly on us again, which I'm really happy about. This year I'm going to rent a boat and have a barbecue on it. I've never done that before, but it's got to be a winner!

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      7 years ago from Chicago

      I enjoyed this very interesting Hub. Thank you for the good read and welcome again to the HubPages Community!


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