Here We Are Again

This post accidentally posted on March 28–trying to remove it.. but posting again for April 11

Blog Post for April 11

How do you Eat in Italy.

Montalbano is a study in Italian eating habits—he frequents a wide variety of places—you, as a person without your private Adelina to cook for you , will explore even more types of eateries on your trip—once we are again allowed to travel.

Here are some tips on eating in Italy from a class I used to teach on travel to Italy.

ating in Italy 

Beyond the Menu, What you should know. 

Italians love food. They eat small tasty things, savoring the flavor, rather than huge clumps of things. Even in a multi-course meal, most Italians will only sample each item, rather than take large helpings. The main meal in the middle of the day is changing in the north, but in the south remains the tradition. 

Breakfast is usually a roll and coffee, sweet roll or plain. 

Modern hotels now serve larger, pan-European (cheese and meat served) and even Aermican eggs and cereal in some places 


Dinner, try to keep it light, like the Italians do, or eat a lighter lunch.Dessert will usually be fruit or cheese or both 

Pastry stops in the middle of the day with coffee or tea  (and breakfast) are when they enjoy those wonderful pastries you see in Pasticceria shops. Candy is sold here, fresh made and in other stores in boxes. Look for almond paste 

Drinks before dinner and afternoon cocktails or tea and coffee sort of like British tea time are always accompanied by a snack, even if it is just chips(crisps, the British word)–Italians usually ear while drinking. Rarely do Italians drink to excess. In fact, you will find wine and beer served at autostrada rest stops because having a glass of wine or beer with a meal is so ingrained and not considered bad form for driving–of course, just one, when driving. 

Types of Restaurants 

Ristorante (ree-stoh-RAHN-teh) – This word should look familiar to you – it’s the Italian word for “restaurant.” A ristorante is where you can expect perhaps the most full-service eating experience in Italy, although there are different levels of ristorante as well. So just because the name of the establishment includes the word “ristorante,” don’t automatically assume it’s going to be the most expensive option. An Italian ristorante is, generally speaking, going to have the most high-end service of any of the kinds of eateries on this list.  

Bar /Cafe(bahrrr, kaffay) – You know the word, but your assumption about what it means may get you in trouble. The Italian bar (with a rolled “R” on the end) is like the corner cafe you may have down the street from you, where you’d go to get a quick cup of Italian coffee and pastry in the morning or grab a snack and quick drink between work and home in the evening. You may stop there for lunch, too, although the selection isn’t always extensive. Italian bars are often the cornerstone of their neighborhoods, the perfect meeting place. And by the way, breakfast is generally consumed standing up.  

More little bars also offer gelato now and also menus  with longer sandwich choices and tables for sit-down service. 

Most bars require payment in advance. You tell the cashier what you want–even pointing to an item if you do not know the name of it, pay and he or she issues a receipt “Scontrino” that you give to the man behind the counter, the barista, who makes your coffee and gives you whatever else you ordered. 

Ultimate bar food lunch or snack is the “toast” or the tramezzino.  “Toast is a grilled cheese  or ham and cheese sandwich on very thin bread. I have been known to make one for breakfast or order one for breakfast while in Italy. Tramezzino or tramezzini are sandwiches on the same thin white bread, with a variety of fillings, almost always with mayonnaise.  Ask what type they have.  Che tipi di tramezzini  avete ?  What kind of little sandwiches do you have? 

In bars and the little restaurant types listed below there are usually three categories of service and the barman may ask about this. 

Eating standing at the bar 

Eating sitting at a table inside] 

Eating sitting at a table outside 

If you sit down at a table you will be charged the price for that. Do not order while standing and then go out to a table and sit down. It’s not the way to do things.   

Italians indicate all kinds of different specialty eateries. Generally speaking you go to any of the -eria places to eat what’s in the name.  

Trattoria (trah-toh-REE-ah) – It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes between a ristorante and a trattoria, because in many cases they’re almost identical. The differences are likely to come in the form of location (a trattoria is less apt to be on a main street or a high-trafficked area and more apt to be on a side-street), and formality. Although many food establishments in Italy are family-run, a trattoria is where you’re likely to find the family matriarch or patriarch in the kitchen actually cooking what’s on the menu that night. A trattoria is also likely to be a smaller establishment than a ristorante, too.  

Osteria (aw-steh-REE-ah) – If you think of a trattoria as one step down from a ristorante, you can think of an osteria as one step down from a trattoria. And that’s not “down” in a judgment sense – it’s “down” in a formality/price sense. An osteria is most often going to be a neighborhood joint rather than a place people would travel to visit or a place tourists would stop. It will have elements of a bar, but will have more restaurant-style services than a typical bar.  This designation is not used much anymore. Conversely, more bars now offer table service with menus and more food offerings 

Taverna (tah-VEHR-nah) – Like the English word it resembles, a taverna is a small eatery that may focus more on the stuff behind the bar than a ristorante or a trattoria, and is more likely to be rustic in its interior. If the focus of the taverna you come across is more toward a place people stop to drink than eat, then you can think of the taverna as the evening equivalent of the bar where people go every day for breakfast. Menu offerings aren’t likely to be extensive in a taverna, but they’re likely to be inexpensive.  

Tavola Calda (TAH-voh-lah KAHL-dah) – Literally “hot table,” this is the closest thing there is to Italian fast food. In a tavola calda, you’ll find a counter full of pre-made dishes which you order by the piece or by weight and which are re-heated for you. They’re popular with business people who don’t have the luxury of a long lunch break, and are also an option for bringing home dinner when you don’t want to cook. If you eat your food at the tavola calda, chances are good you’ll be doing it standing up. 

Pizzeria (pee-tzeh-REE-ah) – This should be familiar to everyone as a pizza place, but like the tavola calda, they will likely have you choose the piece of pizza you want , weigh it and serve you the piece priced by weight., Obviously, here you order first and then pay. Same with rosticceria below. Items are paid by piece or weight. They will heat it if you ask–riscaldare 

Rosticceria (roh-stee-cheh-REE-ah) – Italian kitchens didi not used to have ovens. You took your items out to be roasted or bought them at the rosticceria, already roasted. You could probably guess as to the meaning of this word; a rosticceria will usually have roast chicken or other meats available. Usually there is a pretty good selection of all kinds of other pre-made meals and are popular with Italians for takeout. They will heat for you–riscaldare 

Pasticceria–pastry shop. Most are for takeout only. Some also offer table and counter service now. Just be aware of the categories 

Gelateria–one of the most important!!! Be sure to check if they say the gelato is fatto in casa (home made) not from a chain. Decide what size you want–cups by the register and get the receipt first (scontrino) as in a bar. Then go to counter and order the flavor or flavors you want 

Latteria–cheeseand other  dairy products 

I want to order coffee. 

Cappuccino is usually a morning drink, but hey, you are on vacation, order it when you want! 

Espresso is usually served in a demitasse cup.  There are different varieties of espresso, A doppio is a double shot. 

Caffè macchiato is espresso topped with a bit of steamed milk or foam “Stained”  

ristretto is espresso made with less water, and is stronger and thicker 

cappuccino is mixed or topped with steamed, mostly frothy, milk. It is generally considered a morning beverage 

caffelatte is equal parts espresso and steamed milk, similar to café au lait, and is typically served in a large cup. 

 Latte macchiato (spotted or stained milk) is a glass of warm milk with a bit of coffee  

 Caffè corretto is espresso “corrected” with a few drops of an alcoholic beverage 

Caffé lungo or caffé americano will be a more watered coffee that more closely resembles what we have in the states. Usually it is the brew they use for caffe latte 

 Gelato Flavors 


“Cioccolato” (cho-koh-LAH-toh) is basic chocolate, but the variations on this theme are nearly endless. It’s all the rage to pair chocolate with other complimentary flavors, like hot pepper or orange, and there are also different kinds of chocolate even when it’s all by itself. Here are a few to look for: 

cioccolato fondente (cho-koh-LAH-toh fawn-DEN-teh) – Dark chocolate lovers, this is the label to look for. And if you see cioccolato fondente extra noir, I think you’ll understand that we’re talking about the darkest of the dark chocolates here. Dark chocolate haters (what’s wrong with you?!?), look for cioccolato al latte (cho-koh-LAH-toh ahl LAH-tay), or milk chocolate.  

bacio (BAH-cho) – Named for the famous chocolate candies that come from Perugia, this is a chocolate hazelnut combination not unlike Nutella (which is another common gelato flavor), often with bits of hazelnuts in the mix.  

gianduja or gianduia (jahn-DOO-yah) – Either way it’s spelled, it means the same thing – a creamy combination of milk chocolate and hazelnut. This flavor comes primarily from the Piedmont region, but it can be found throughout Italy.  

cioccolato all’arancia (cho-koh-LAH-toh ahl-ah-RAHN-cha) – This is chocolate orange, and is a personal favorite. It’s most often a dark chocolate, not a milk chocolate, and may have either just an orange flavor or may also include candied bits of orange peel.  

cioccolato con peperoncini (cho-koh-LAH-toh kohn pep-pehr-ohn-CHEE-nee) – Another trendy chocolate addition, besides orange, is pepper – and this is often how you’ll see it on the flavor placards. It’s basically a hot pepper infused chocolate (usually dark chocolate), and can vary in terms of heat. A friend also reports having seen cioccolato all’azteca (cho-koh-LAH-toh ahl-az-TEH-kah), which had both cinnamon and hot pepper.  

The Nuts 

Nuts are a popular ingredient in many of the chocolate and cream flavors, but they’re also stand-alone flavors as well. 

pistacchio (pee-STAHK-yoh) – I’m not going to define this one, because if you read English you’ll know what it is. The important thing here it to learn that the “ch” in the middle of this word has a “k” sound (not an “sh” sound). Also good to know – it’s a very popular flavor.  

mandorla (mahn-DOOR-lah) – Almond  

nocciola (noh-CHO-lah) – This is hazelnut all by itself (not combined with chocolate, as listed above).  

castagna (kahs-TAHN-yah) – This is chestnut, and isn’t nearly as common as some of the other nut flavors. It could be a seasonal specialty, I’m not sure.  

The Creams If your first flavor choice is something particularly strong or difficult to match with something else, getting a cream flavor for a second scoop is a good option because it generally won’t fight with the first flavor, but will add a muted backdrop. 

fior di latte (FYOR dee LAH-tay) – Perhaps the base flavor for all cream (or even chocolate) flavors, this is literally “flower of milk” and it’s a wonderfully subtle sweetcream flavor.  

crema (KREH-mah) – This is a kind of egg custard flavor, and shouldn’t be confused with vanilla.  

zabaione (zah-bah-YOH-nay) – This is based on a dessert of the same name, made from (among other things) egg yolks and sweet Marsala wine, eggy and custardy flavor, with an overtone of Marsala.  

cocco (KOH-koh) – Coconut  

caffè (kah-FAY) – coffee 

amarena (ah-mah-RAY-nah) – Though it has fruit in it, it’s a cream base, so I’m sticking it in this category. This is another personal favorite – it’s basically fior di latte with a sauce of sour cherries kind of mixed in.  

The Fruits 

Technically, these aren’t really considered gelati – instead, they’re sorbetti (sorbetto in the singular) because they’re made without milk. 

fragola (FRAH-go-lah) – Strawberry  

lampone (lahm-POH-nay) – Raspberry (oh-so good with a dark chocolate flavor)  

limone (lee-MOH-nay) – Lemon (lime is really rare, but it’s lime, or LEE-may)  

mandarino (mahn-dah-REE-noh) – Mandarin orange  

melone (meh-LOH-nay) – Melon (usually cantaloupe)  

albicocca (al-bee-KOH-kah) – Apricot  

fico (FEE-koh) – Fig  

tarocco (tah-ROH-koh) – Blood orange (not very common)  

frutti di bosco (FROO-tee dee BOHS-koh) – These aren’t fruits belonging to some guy named Bosco, this means “fruits of the forest,” generally things like blueberries and blackberries.  

mela (MEH-lah) – Apple (also look for mela verde (MEH-lah VEHR-day), or green apple)  

pera (PEH-rah) – This is pear, and one of my favorite fruit flavors. It’s a really subtle flavor, but one of the best features of well-made pear gelato is the texture. You really feel like you’re eating a pear.  

pesca (PEHS-kah) – Peach  (beware here—pesce is fish!) 

See something in the case we haven’t covered here? Ask for an assagio, a taste 

Some of this information came from  and and

Published by Jil

Joan Leotta is an author and story performer. Her books include a four-book series about strong women, Legacy of Honor, a collection of short stories, Simply a Smile, and a picture book, WHOOSH! for children that stresses the importance of parents, especially Dads.Her second picture book, Summer in a Bowl will be out in September. She’s a passionate shell collector and can often be found stooping over bits of beach near her home in Calabash. Joan is available to speak on writing , grief share or perform at schools, women’s groups, libraries and festivals, You can contact her at or follow her blog at www.joanleotta.wordpress.comStoryteller

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