Italy not only has a variety of foods, but there are also several categories of dishes that are a part of each meal.
Below is the relatively lengthy list of the categories of food that you will find on the menu. It may look daunting and you may be thinking, “Are these people crazy? I can’t eat all that!”
Fortunately, you don’t have to. First of all, portions are much smaller than what we are served in the U.S. It’s also not obligatory to select something from each category. I often order an appetizer, a pasta dish and then a salad or grilled vegetables. Never forget, the purpose of the meal is to create a pleasurable experience, not just to fill you up. Engage the server and they will help match their menu to your wants.
Antipasti – Most menus begin with appetizers. Many Italian antipasti are quite well known all over the world – prosciutto and melon, Mozzarella, basiland tomato, salami and cheese among others. There is literally an infinite number of antipasti that are served in Italy. We strongly suggest asking the server about the antipasti that are local specialties.
Primo Piatto (the first dish) will be a selection of pasta, risotto or even soup offerings.
Just like antipasti, there are several internationally known dishes such as carbonara, puttanesca, caccio e peppe, lasagne and more. We once again suggest asking for local specialties. It can be amazing what will be brought before you.
Risotto with Squash
Secondo Piatto – the main dish consists of meat, fish or poultry. It’s no problem to split this dish with someone at the table if the previous dishes have sapped your appetite.
Salmon with ground pistachio
Contorno – these are side dishes to accompany the secondo piatto. While we are used to the main meal being served with one or two choices of side dishes, in Italy they are ordered separately.
Insalata – salad starts the meal in many places around the world, but in Italy it will be served with or after the secondo piatto. Most common is an insalata mista (mixed salad) consisting of lettuce, tomato, carrots and onions.
Dolce – A great meal often begs for dessert. Coffee is usually served after the dessert, and you may be offered a digestivo (a digestive liquor that is supposed to help with digestion).