Top 10 interesting facts about Italian cuisine (and customs)
Many people around the world are familiar with Italian cuisine, or the various renditions of it that have appeared in different countries. But, there are certain things that have changed as the food has traveled and married with other cultures, not to mention the customs that go along with it. Here are the top 10 interesting facts about Italian cuisine and customs, that you may not have known before;
1. “Italian Wedding Soup” doesn’t actually exist in Italy
It’s hard to say exactly where this dish came from but it’s likely that it arose from a melding of Italian and American cuisine. For those of you who have never heard of the dish before, it consists of a stock, meat and vegetables. Although it is a tasty soup, if you were to ask for the dish on Italian soil you’d probably be met by a puzzled waiter.
2. Italians don’t use garlic that much
It feels like garlic bread is a staple in many restaurants around the world but you’d be hard pressed to find it in Italy. As far as bread is concerned, it is usually served plain and certainly isn’t drenched in garlic butter! When it comes to seasoning and flavour in authentic Italian cuisine, less is more. Italians count on the marriage of fresh, flavourful ingredients to make their dishes.
3. Italians don’t drink coffee the way you think they do
The uprising of coffee shops with fancy Italian sounding coffees, served to you by Baristas has led the people astray. In Italy, milk laden coffee is something reserved for breakfast time, you’ll never see an Italian ask for a Cappuccino after around 11am. A coffee post meal will simply be an espresso, usually at the bar while the crema is still fresh.
4. Spaghetti and meatballs is not an Italian dish
Arguably one of the most famous “Italian” dishes in the world, I’m sure most of you reading will have had spaghetti and meatballs at least once in your life. Unfortunately, it is not an authentic Italian dish. In fact, you’ll likely not find very many pasta dishes topped with meat, this is usually reserved for dishes cooked “al forno”. While we’re on the subject of meat and pasta, chicken is something you’ll never see atop pasta in Italy, it’s not a very popular meat in general.
5. The bread is not an appetiser
You’ve entered the restaurant, sat down and had your orders taken by a friendly waiter who shortly returns with a basket of bread. WAIT! Put the bread down!
In Italy the bread is used to “mop up” extra sauce left on the plate after eating. If you want to go for an authentic Italian experience, save your bread and savour the sauce with it. This is known in Italy as “Fare la scarpetta“.
6. One does not simply walk whilst eating
In Italy walking whilst eating is considered disrespectful. Someone spent time and effort creating food for you to eat and enjoy which you can’t do if you’re worrying about where you need to be next. This ties in well with the overall mentality towards food in Italy, it’s important to slow down, laugh with friends and family, eat well and relax.
7. Pepperoni pizza? Not in Italy
Fun fact; the word “peperoni” with one P means bell pepper in Italian, so don’t be surprised if you order a “pepperoni pizza” and are met with something all the more vegetarian than you’re used to. It’s thought that pepperoni originated in the USA at some point, but the sausage we’re all familiar with is actually not Italian in origin at all.
8. A bar in Italy may not be what you think it is
In general, if you come across a bar in Italy it will be nothing like the bars you may find in England. For the most part they are places people go to get a pastry and an espresso around breakfast time. Of course, in more touristy areas you’ll likely find the types of bars you’re accustomed to but be wary when asking for the nearest bar in Italy.
9. Authenitc Italian pizza is simpler than you think
In Italy the only pizza you will find is thin crust, the thicker variety with spongy crust is something that was invented outside of Italy. Toppings are also usually much simpler than what we are used to in England with the most popular being a simple Margherita. It’s also not something you’d really order in a restaurant in Italy, there are pizzerias for that. Don’t be surprised if “pizze” isn’t on the menu at a ristorante.
10. Salad isn’t an appetiser either
Believe it or not, salad is not an appetiser in Italy, although it has been popularised as one in England. Italians will eat their salads after the meal as the roughage aids in digestion. While on the topic of salad, I’d also like to note that salad “dressing” is a very simple affair in Italy; extra virgin olive oil and vinegar is all you need.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through the top 10 interesting facts about Italian cuisine. If you’re planning to visit Italy any time soon these small bites of information may help to avert some confusion. Keep an eye out for more blogs on authentic Italian cuisine and customs in the future!
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