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Some things just go together… Peanut butter and jelly, Abbott and Costello, movies and popcorn, and yeah you get the point. One of those things here in Italy is a brioche with your gelato or Sicilian granita. There’s a “no brain-freeze guarantee” for those who take that soft, warm, sweet and spongy bun in hand! Yes, of course, for those who’d rather a simpler approach, there are cone and cup options too. That said, however, there are limits to everything. There are some things that just, well, don’t go together over here in the land of farm-to-table, Zero Kilometer, slow food, and all-around Nonna knowhow.

Remember: when in Italy, you’re in a Food and Table culture. There are rules. Serious ones. To their credit, most Italian eateries are masters at serving their cuisine as-is, ready-to-eat, with no need for additional condiments. The grating of parmesan cheese being a singular exception, or perhaps a concession, given the variety of clientele that saunter into their establishments. Here’s the deal. If you really want to know the Real Italy, and do like the locals do, then there are some guidelines to follow of what to do and not to do when dining. Stray from the path just a little and titled heads, quizzical looks, and sideways glances ensue. Here’s a concise starter list.

What TO and NOT to ask for alongside your next order …

  • Great! You’re in Florence. Just about to eat a juicy, 4-inch thick steak. For the love of Pete, please don’t ask for A.1. (US) or HP (UK) sauce. It’s being served to you as the chef intends.
  • Look at you Under The Tuscan Sun! Don’t ask for olive oil to dip your bland and saltless bread in. Use it instead, after your saucy dish, to mop up the leftover gravy. Yummy!
  • Enjoying a hot and sweaty mess in Naples? Fantastic. Ask for french fries as your appetizer. And, please don’t order wine with your pizza; order a draft beer, Coca-Cola, or Fanta (orange). By the way, if you’re over the age of 8, it’s rather expected that you’d eat with a fork and knife.
  • Speaking of french fries, how about mayonnaise instead of tomato sauce (aka “Ketchup”).

Let’s just get really general, now that we’re on a bit of a rant 😉 What about those little pits inside olives at aperitivo? Yes, it’s ok to use your hands for those! But picking up your aperitivo or tagliere (charcuterie), let’s utensils for that, we’re all grownups. You probably already know not to order a cappuccino after mid-day, but did you know that granita is a Sicilian delicacy that’s appropriate for all meal times on hot summer days?

Last but not least, the spoon with your pasta. Wait for it, it’s a doozy! Please use a spoon to help twirl your pasta… if you’d like to indicate that it was poorly made, or that you’re under the age of 8. Hope this has been helpful! If you’ve been challenged or intrigued by our little list here, how about tuning in to the Bella Italy podcast? Chock full of helpful tips and tricks to travel Italy – like you were born there. Click the link below to check out the latest episodes!