For Italians food is something extremely special. It is connected with pleasure, tradition, family and leisure and must always be savored with gusto!
In Italy, eating is synonymous with slow, so take your time and enjoy your meal! The MammamiaFamily will guide you on an exploration of Italian food habits; their peculiarities and secrets with tips and tricks for parents and kids of all ages.
Approximately from 7-10am
Breakfast is a simple meal, usually taken at home (or at your local bar) and consists of a ‘brioche’ (cornetto) and cappuccino or espresso. The brioche can be plain (liscia), filled with jam (con marmellata), confectioner’s custard (con crema) or chocolate (con cioccolata). For Italians, cappuccino is a breakfast drink and most people do not drink it after 11am, definitely not with lunch or dinner. Take away coffee is not common at all; don’t expect to see Italian drinking coffee in take away cups down the street. Bere un caffè is a religious experience, and it has to be done in a proper porcelain cup!
The typical Italian bar rarely offers a “kid’s menu” or savory dishes for breakfast (forget your eggs with bacon), however you will frequently find delicious mini-croissants that will go wonderfully with a warm or cold glass of milk. Yes, warm milk! That’s how Italian kids drink their milk.
Approximately from 13:30-2pm in the North and 1:30-3:00pm in the South
Traditionally, lunch in Italy is a three-course meal served with an antipasto (appetizer), a primo (first course) which is commonly a choice of past or risotto and a secondo (second course) a meat, fish or vegetarian dish with a side that is usually ordered separately. The meal is concluded with dessert, fresh fruit or ice cream and a classic caffè espresso! However you don’t have to eat this much at every meal, it is common for people to have only one or two courses.
For a quick alternative you can have a panino (sandwich) at a bar. Typical filling include mozzarella cheese and tomatoes, prosciutto cotto (cooked ham) or prosciutto crudo (raw ham).
– Pasta is not a side dish. There are also different kinds of pasta, each intended for a specific sauce, for example trofie with pesto, penne al pomodoro…. Although ketchup is ok for your fries, you should NEVER add it to pasta. Spaghetti should never be cut, if you can’t manage just ask for short pasta or learn the basic skills of twirling, with the fork only, no spoon allowed of course.
– Dressing for your salad and veggies consists of a choice of olive oil, vinegar, Balsamic vinegar, lemon, salt and pepper. Luckily Italian olio is the best you can get!
– Lastly, don’t add Parmesan cheese to fish.
Approximately from 7-9pm
This Italian early evening ritual is at its strongest in Milan and takes place just after work and before dinner. Aperitivo consists of the purchase of a drink (beer, cocktail or a glass of wine) accompanied by food. In fact most places that offer aperitivo provide so much food that this could almost become an alternative to dinner, with a delicious buffet where you will find pasta dishes, pizza, cold cuts and sometimes even dessert!
Approximately from 7-9pm
Italians consider dinner an opportunity to relax with friends and family, to chat and gossip, laugh and share. Typically they eat later than many Americans and northern Europeans, never before 8pm, often later in the summer. Cena (dinner) similar to lunch, is usually a three-course meal (antipasto, primo and secondo) ending with fruit and perhaps a glass of grappa.
If you opt for dinner out, follow the locals and pick a spot where locals are eating. It is hard to eat badly in Italy, but we suggest you skip the menu turistico and instead ask for the menu del giorno (daily specials).
If you are invited to dinner, do remember that Italians are more formal than most foreigners and you should take a small present such as flowers, pastries or chocolates. Wine is also a welcome present, just keep in mind that it is unlikely to be served with the meal as the wine will have already be chosen in advance.
Article from MammamiaKids.it issues n. 19-22