Top Ten Things to Know About Italian Restaurants
By that, of course, I mean about eating in restaurants in Italy. This list is for first timers. You world travelers will know all this already. And please feel free to add any suggestions of your own:
(Photo by me)
2) As in the States, things are getting more informal, so some relatively serious restaurants decide to call themselves trattorias because the locals as well as the tourists prefer to be casual. And a very expensive restaurant like Conte Sconda here in Venice has wooden tables and could almost label itself a trattoria.
3) A restaurant that opens before 7 p.m. for dinner is probably catering to tourists more than you may want it to.
4) Be prepared to pay for water with your meal. If you want still water, ask for "naturale" or "senza gas."
5) On your bill, you'll probably have a charge for "coperto" or "panne e coperto." That's the table charge, which is calculated per person. The menu sometimes says that includes service, so you don't have to tip. Or...
6) ...There may be a "servicio" charge also. If there is, you can pay the bill and go. If not, you can leave 10 percent of the bill for service without shocking your waiter or waitress, although I imagine that with all the Americans here, tipping creep is escalating.
7) In one trattoria, I heard the American couple next to us ask for butter with the bread. It wasn't going to happen. You can do what my daughter does, and ask for "oilo" to get olive oil for dipping; but to be on the safe side you better learn the word for plate, "piatto," as well. In casual restaurants, Italians eat their bread without oil and without butter plates, and the server doesn't always think if he's busy.
8) If it's an eating place that isn't catering to Americans, don't think the service is poor because the waiter hasn't brought you the check. You are welcome to linger as long as you wish over a good meal, and you won't get the check until you ask for it.
9) Although we aren't eating in the finest restaurants, I didn't expect that most salads would still be made with iceberg lettuce and wintry tomatoes. (Even when the tomatoes on a caprese salad are fine.) Don't ask for salad dressing, of course. You're expected to mix your own with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.
10) You may be surprised that garlic is used more subtly here than in many American Italian restaurants, even in the south.