Il Pick a Plate, Don’t Be Late – We’re Hungry!: The Importance of Food Choices in Italian Culture
What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Italy? Is it the leaning tower of Pisa? The Vatican City? Or maybe the Colosseum? While these are all marvels of Italian architecture, what really makes Italy special is its food – from pizza to pasta to gelato, Italian cuisine has become synonymous with the country itself.
Italians take their food very seriously, and there are certain customs and traditions that must be followed when it comes to dining. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of food choices in Italian culture, and why “Il Pick a Plate, Don’t Be Late – We’re Hungry!” should be your new motto.
A Brief History of Italian Food
Pizza is one of Italy’s most well-known and beloved dishes. It originated in Naples in the 18th century and was originally a bread topped with tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. It wasn’t until the late 1800s that mozzarella cheese was added to the mix, making it the delicious pizza we all know and love today.
Another staple of Italian cuisine is pasta, which has been around for centuries. The ancient Greeks and Romans both had their own versions of pasta, but it wasn’t until the 13th century that it became popular in Italy. Today, there are over 300 different types of pasta, each with its own unique shape and sauce pairing.
And let’s not forget about gelato, the Italian version of ice cream. It’s made with more milk than cream, which gives it a lighter, creamier texture. Gelato has been around since the 16th century and is a beloved dessert in many Italian households.
The Importance of Choosing the Right Dish
When it comes to dining in Italy, choosing the right dish is crucial. Italians believe in using fresh, seasonal ingredients and cooking them in a way that enhances their natural flavors. This means that dishes may vary depending on the time of year, and certain dishes may only be available during certain seasons.
Italians also believe in using local ingredients whenever possible. This is why you’ll find so many regional dishes in Italy, each one showcasing the flavors and ingredients of a specific area. For example, risotto alla milanese is a staple in Milan, while spaghetti alla carbonara is a Roman classic.
Choosing the right dish is also important when it comes to dining etiquette. In Italy, it’s considered bad form to order a dish that’s meant to be shared, such as a pizza or a platter of antipasti, for yourself. These dishes are meant to be enjoyed communally, so it’s best to order them for the table to share.
Tips for Ordering in Italy
Ordering in a restaurant in Italy can be intimidating, especially if you’re not familiar with the language or the customs. Here are some tips to help you navigate the menu like a pro:
- Know the difference between primo piatto and secondo piatto. The primo piatto is the first course, usually a pasta dish or risotto. The secondo piatto is the second course, usually a meat or fish dish. Italians typically eat both courses, but you can opt for just one if you prefer.
- Try something regional. As mentioned earlier, each region in Italy has its own specialty dishes. Ask your server for recommendations based on the region you’re in.
- Don’t ask for substitutions. Italians believe that each dish is perfect as it is, so asking for changes or substitutions is considered rude.
- Don’t expect to take home leftovers. Italians typically don’t take home leftovers, as it’s seen as a sign that the food wasn’t good enough to finish.
The Risks of Not Choosing Carefully
Choosing the wrong dish in Italy can have some serious consequences. For one, you may end up with a dish that doesn’t appeal to your taste buds. But more importantly, you may offend the locals by not respecting their culinary customs.
In some cases, choosing the wrong dish can even lead to health issues. For example, if you have a gluten intolerance and order a dish that contains pasta, you may suffer from digestive problems.
With its rich culinary history and traditions, Italy is a food lover’s paradise. Whether you’re indulging in pizza in Naples or savoring gelato in Rome, it’s important to choose your dishes carefully and respect the customs of the locals.
So next time you’re in Italy, remember “Il Pick a Plate, Don’t Be Late – We’re Hungry!” Your taste buds (and the locals) will thank you.
|Pesto Genovese||Liguria||Basil, Garlic, Olive Oil, Pine Nuts, Parmesan Cheese|
|Minestrone||Lombardy||Tomatoes, Zucchini, Carrots, Beans, Onion, Garlic|
|Risotto alla Milanese||Milan||Arborio Rice, Saffron, Parmesan Cheese, Chicken Broth|
|Spaghetti alla Carbonara||Lazio||Spaghetti, Guanciale (Pork Jowl), Pecorino Cheese, Eggs|
|Lasagne||Emilia-Romagna||Lasagne Sheets, Bechamel Sauce, Bolognese Sauce, Parmesan Cheese|
- “A Brief History of Pizza.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 27 Nov. 2021, https://www.history.com/news/a-brief-history-of-pizza.
- “The History of Pasta.” Love Italian Life, 15 Mar. 2020, https://loveitalianlife.com/the-history-of-pasta/.
- “The History of Gelato.” The Spruce Eats, 22 Jan. 2022, https://www.thespruceeats.com/history-of-gelato-4175423.