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How Italians Dine

Updated on April 24, 2011

Breakfast Biscotti and Croissant


If you are interested in eating abundantly and with ''gusto'' Italy is the place for you.  If you are planning a trip to Italy, get your taste buds ready to celebrate, as there will be many flavorful occasions. From breakfast to dinner, you will be able to savour great dishes that will be part of your culinary souvenirs in the form of mouth watery memories once you are back home.

Italians may dine abundantly, yet they are thin as bread sticks. What is their secret you may ask as you look around the streets and see no shadows of Weight Watcher programs or Atkin Diets? Perhaps the biggest secret is that cars are used quite seldom. There is no such thing as driving to get to a store within a block. People walk, and walk and walk. Whether they are shopping or going to work they will rely mostly on their legs. There are always side walks coasting even the least trafficked streets.


If you happen to decide to have breakfast, one of the preferred places you should step in is a bar. You will be delighted in awakening to the smell of a great cappuccino. Italians enjoy their morning coffee along with a  a brioche or ''cornetto''. These are favorite pastries that are served in bars and dipped in coffee. They can be filled with jams or creamy custards. At home, often cookies called ''frollini'' are dipped into milk or coffee.

You may be upset not to find any bacon or cold slices served for breakfast. These are usually served as appetizers for lunch. Breakfast is light and usually sweet. Cereals have been lately been imported from the States, so you may be happy to find Corn Flakes and Rice Crispies in some stores.

However, Italian milk tastes very different from American milk. Some foreigners may not like the taste. It has a very rich flavor and after taste which people not used to it, may not appreciate. However, this same milk is what produces great gelato and other tasty desserts.


Lunch is the richest meal of the day. It is often served as late as 1-2 PM. If you are not used to eat much at lunch, go light on breakfast so you will have room for the goodies that await you. Typically, lunch begins with some ''antipasti'', the Italian word for appetizer. These consist of cold cuts, cheeses, olives, pickled vegetables, and many more.

Pasta or rice is generally served as the main dish. Pasta is often served with red sauce or it may be ''in bianco'' with no tomato sauce. On the contrary, than what is done in the States, bread is not typically dipped in the sauce remaining from the pasta. Also, bread is rarely served at all with butter along with pasta. You also will rarely find a whole chicken cutlet or veal cutlet inside your pasta dish.! Meat is part of the second dish.

Second dishes consist of meat or fish. These are often accompanied by ''contorni'' a side dish often placed next to the second. Side dishes consist mainly of vegetables.

Fruit may follow and finally coffee and dessert is served. If you made it up to this point, congratulations! Now you can get ready to enjoy a nice siesta, an afternoon nap, as most Italians do. Do not expect to go shopping, as most stores are closed between noon and four!


Dinner is served fairly late, many times around 8 PM. It mainly consists of a second dish being either fish or meat. It is not very heavy as lunch. Most Italians enjoy  dinner watching television. If a soccer game is on, it makes a  great entertainment topic!

Italians love to eat and cooking is a passion. There are still housewives that just take care of house chores and enjoy cooking for the rest of the family. This allows time for enjoying food at a slow pace, preferably forgetting the hustle and bustle of modern day life and leaving problems behind. Now that you have learned how Italians dine, book your trip and get ready for the meal of your life!


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