I’ve often been asked where may favorite place to eat in Italy is and although I’ve listed several in my book I always reply with the following –

  • The best place to eat in Italy is at the home of la tua famiglia  (the home of your family)
  • The second best place to eat in Italy is at the home of i tuoi amici (the home of your friends)
  • The third best place to eat in Italy is at “un ristorante” (chosen by your family and friends)

I say this because eating in this manner represents an authentic Italian experience around the table. Your Italian family and friends want only to serve you the best and are the most generous of hosts. When accompanied by Italians in a restaurant, the proprietor is most eager to please because you are with Italians and are considered to be one of them. Just eating in Italy is an experience you will long remember, eating in this manner touches your very soul.

At the table – Ristorante La Lepre – Valeggio sul Mincio

Being connected with in-country advice from our Italian family and friends and il consiglio lo chef  (the advice of the chef) is a definite perk but you don’t need to feel like an outsider or accept the standard tourist fare when traveling in Italy. With a little pre-trip planning and the culinary backstory about what to eat, every meal in Italy will be Buon Appetito! After all there is no better place to eat, drink and make memories than in Italy.

Begin by learning the fundamentals of Italian food. There are a number of books,magazines and web sites including a series on food and wine from the Italian Trade Commission that I have used over the years. It’s important to understand the Italian esthetic for food and their respect for the ingredients and preparation to understand the specialties of the menu. Speaking of il menu. Brush up on your Italian and know some basic phrases on ordering and making a reservation. There are several Italian language survival sites on the internet but you can’t always rely on rote phrase book sayings. Spend some time learning elementary Italian vocabulary and grammar.  Look for recommendations from fellow travels and trusted sources on restaurants (ristorante, trattorie,osterie, rosticcerie, tavolo caldo, tavalo freddo, locande – do you know the difference?). Although it has been said that you can’t have a bad meal in Italy, I’m not sure that’s completely true. As a tourist you are at risk of being misled to a lesser dining experience because most tourists have little appreciation for looking beyond the bus to discover Italy. Be a traveler not a tourist and approach your trip with the intention of pairing the flavors of Italy with the sights as one compliments the other. Then sit back and enjoy the flavors of Italy in a landscape perfectly constructed to eat, drink and make memories.

Here are a few common Italian food phrases

  • Can I order?-Posso ordinare?
  • Can I order a drink?-Posso ordinare da bere?
  • Can I see the menu? – Posso vedere il menu? or  The menu, please-Il menu, per favore.
  • Can we have the bill?-Possiamo avere il conto?
  • Is there a table free?-C’è un tavolo libero? or Ha un tavolo libero per _____ persone?
  • I should like a bottle of water (mineral water/carbonated or natural/without gas). –Vorrei una bottiglia d’aqua minerale or naturale (senza gas).
  • Do you have a house red wine(tipical of the region)?-Ha un vino rosso della casa (tipico di regione locale)?
  • Pieno –Full
  • Basta –Enough
  • I’ll have –Prendo
  • When finished ordering –e’tutto
  • When waiter removes the plate he might say –Posso (meaning I can  . . . )
  • I should like to pay. – Vorrei pagare.
  • I should like to make a reservation for this evening at 8 o’clock. –Vorrei fare una prenotazione per stasera alle otto.

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