When it comes to fine dining, nothing beats an authentic yet upscale Italian meal. Bold flavors, unique textures, and fresh ingredients mean you can expect to be wowed from the first bite. However, unless you’ve been to Italy and have experienced the real thing, it can be difficult to know how to make the most of your meal at a great Italian restaurant right here in America. We’ve gathered a few pieces of advice to take advantage of an authentic Italian meal.
Where to Go
There is a large variety of types of Italian eateries to choose from, so it’s important to identify the mood or purpose of your meal. Here are the most common traditional places where Italians enjoy a good lunch or dinner with friends.
- Pizzeria – This is most common for friends who want to gather for a casual and delicious meal together. The vibe is fun and friendly. While pizzerias specialize in its namesake dish, they also serve other types of food, so there will be something for everyone.
- Restaurant – A “ristorante” is generally a more formal venue for eating and will be generally a much more upscale option. Like in the US, you can expect an Italian ristorante to have tablecloths and wine lists, and you will be served by suited waiters.
- Trattoria – This is more of a casual locale, something between a pizzeria and ristorante. The food is also laidback, yet still delicious. Here, you can expect to see a menu on a chalkboard outside the door and possible share a table with strangers!
- Osteria – Traditionally, the osteria is almost more of a bar that also serves food. Here you can have a glass of locally made wine and enjoy small bites to eat.
- Paninoteca – A paninoteca is a casual sandwich or panini bar. It usually features a very relaxed atmosphere and is most popular at lunchtime.
How to Order
When you arrive at your eatery of choice in Italy, you can enjoy a typical meal that consists of various dishes. You can expect to try all of the following for a genuine Roman meal in particular:
- Antipasto – Comparable with American appetizers, this dish usually consists of a variety of cheeses, olives, vegetables, or fried items like zucchini flowers or croquettes. Bruschetta is a very popular antipasto option.
- Primo – The first course will traditionally consist of a risotto, soup, or pasta dish.
- Secondo – The main course will historically feature meat, fish, or a hearty vegetable. A fresh salad could also be used here.
- Contorno – The side dish is usually a cooked vegetable dish.
- Dessert – Various types of cakes, pastries, or gelato will be featured for dessert.
- Café – No authentic Italian meal is complete without a cup of coffee afterward!
BY no means do you have to order all of the above dishes. The beauty of traditional Italian cuisine is that you are free to order what appeals to you; you aren’t beholden to specific rules on what you should order or not. Furthermore, sharing with friends is encouraged, so you will get to try a variety of exquisite dishes.
If you are looking for an authentic Italian dining experience, you don’t need to travel all the way to Rome. In fact, some of the finest Italian restaurants can be found in Boston’s historic North End, so make a trip over to experience the beauty and taste of real Italian Cuisine at the Original Strega by Nick Varano.