Other countries, other customs, but even as a visitor you don't necessarily have to attract (unpleasant) attention - especially when it comes to something as elementary as mangiare in Italy.
You want to enjoy your spaghetti undisturbed and not have everyone's eyes on you. The all-clear: with our eight basic rules, nothing can go wrong...
1. EVERY MEAL HAS ITS TIME
As casual as Italians are, the fun stops when it comes to eating. Lunch is between 1 and 3 p.m. (especially in the countryside, including a siesta afterwards). Dinner is usually served from 8 pm.
The further south you are (and the warmer the temperatures), the further back the time shifts. It can even start at 9 or 10 pm. If that's too late for you, you can enjoy an aperitivo with nibbles between 6 and 8 pm.
If you want a digestion-friendly meal at 6 p.m., you won't usually get anything on your plate outside the tourist strongholds. Restaurants are usually still closed at this time, and if not, you will probably be the only guest.
2. NO FLIPFLOPS
Not as casual as thought, part 2. Even in beach regions, Italians do NOT wear flip-flops to the restaurant in the evening. Traditionally, people in Italy are known to go out more smartly. Nothing with a tank top and Bermudas. Even with flip-flops you will get a table, but possibly also a few irritated looks.
3. WAIT FOR YOUR SEAT
In Italy, you are a guest - and therefore they take care of you. Stay at the entrance of the restaurant until the waitress greets you and assigns you a seat. Just walking in and sitting down at a table is considered very rude.
4. THE MENU: ALWAYS IN ORDER
You can write treatises about the Italian menu (and there will be a few more posts to come), so here is a brief summary. On Sundays and holidays there is usually the full programm, sometimes only two courses for "normal" meals.
A classic Italian menu: starts with antipasti (including bruschetta, caprese, carpaccio), then comes the primo piatto (carbohydrates: including pasta, pizza, risotto), secondo piatto (protein: including meat, fish, seafood, cheese, egg), followed by dessert, the dolci (including tiramisu, pannacotta etc.).
4. RESPECT & PRIDE
When you're in a restaurant (and not on the football pitch), you don't shout - logically - either. Shouting "Cameriera" or "Cameriere" is absolutely inappropriate. Instead, discreetly raise your finger or a friendly "Signor" or "Signora" and everything tutto a posto.
Almost all the service people do their job with great pride in the mangiare they serve. Ask for recommendations - and you won't regret it.
5. COPERTO is NOT FOR THE SERVICE
It is ABSOLUTELY WRONG to believe that the "coperto" is an automatic tip. In many restaurants, the coperto is added to the bill as a kind of service charge for setting the table. This fee goes to the restaurant owner.
6. VINO YES, DRUNKEN NO
It's tempting: first an aperitivo, then a prosecco, delicious vino, then another grappa, and at some point you're totally stuffed. Oops! And in Italy, double oops.
In fact, you'll hardly ever hear drunks rumbling around in the pub (if you do, it's usually tourists). It is frowned upon in Italy to get drunk in public. (Note: This does not apply to Italian tourists at the Oktoberfest. ;-)
7. COFFEE AFTER DINNER
No cappuccino after 11 a.m., unless you want to out yourself as a "foreigner". In Italy, cappuccino is only drunk for breakfast. After dinner, it's espresso. No pot of coffee, no latte. Espresso, what else...
8. THE BILL, PLEASE
Don't be too stingy: if you go out with friends, ask for the bill and everyone picks it up. Under no circumstances should you let the waitress collect from eight people individually.
Nice service deserves a thank you
9. THANKS WITH "MANCIA"
From super weird to super funny and above all super delicious: what did you experience in restaurants in Italy?