The ABCs of Restaurants in Italy

Okay, first off when you sit down in a restaurant you may get a complimentary aperitivi, a small serving of wine or other alcoholic drink to welcome you. Next the menus arrive, then a small basket of assorted, fresh bread or rolls.

Menu at Trattoria S. Giacomo

Menu board featuring 2 menus of the day

The basics taken care of a waiter or waitress arrives and greets you “Buon Giorno” (good day), and takes your drink order. Even the smallest ristorante will very likely have pages of beverage options. We’re easy because Mickey generally opts for “birra alla spina” (draft beer), and it’s water for me. But don’t plan on being able to get simple water from a pitcher, it’s gonna be bottled water, either “still” or “frizzante” (normal or sparkling) never with ice, and it’s gonna cost between €1.00-2.00, (the euro today is $1.11 ~about the same as before Brexit).

Typical bill

       Here the tip (servizio) is included.

Then there’s the cover charge (cuperto) which must be visibly disclosed on the menu if it applies, as it does in nearly all restaurants. It ranges anywhere from €1 -€2 per person. The upside is there will always be a nice tablecloth, cloth napkins, wine & water goblets and the normal cutlery. But don’t confuse the cuperto with a tip.  ITALIANS DON’T TIP (though a small tip may be included on your bill). This is a cultural thing. Servers in Italy are paid a decent wage and the patrons are not expected to subsidise lousy pay from management as in the USA.

Lunch in Varenna on Lake Como

               Lunch in Varenna on Lake Como

Every restaurant no matter what scale has a wide variety of pizza but not what you may expect. First of all the tomato base is not a thick overpowering tomato paste like at home. The dough may be brushed with olive oil and a thin coating especially around the edges, of crushed fresh tomatoes. Toppings start with a softer, more flavorful mozzarella, then anything from eggplant, prosciutto, arugula, tuna, potato or even an egg yolk. Oh and don’t forget the salumi (salami) in a wide variety of spiciness. This mixed salad (insalda mista) includes corn!

Pizza aside the types of eateries you may encounter start with bars, which all offer food; simple pastries or a brioche for breakfast, panini and teamezzini (sandwiches) for lunch. Next is the osteria, traditionally a tavern that offered beds and a limited but tasty menu. The trattoria is normally a family owned & operated place where the owners, wait-staff and the regulars are often a type of extended family. And lastly, the ristorante, is a bit more formal and expensive with a more extensive menu. But whatever they are called, they are mostly great!

Aloha, Mikie ~just a blogger (fightin’ like a girl)

~Psst, tired of politics? Check out in the Categories drop down menu (right side panel) for my blogs posted from interesting locations during my travel adventures.

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