Let’s talk about how Italian eat.
As I observed, Italian did not seem to think “Breakfast is the most important meal” of the day. It’s normal to skip breakfast (Colazione) and only have a quick caffe (simply espresso). Having an espresso at a bar in Italy took less than 5 minutes. Order, coffee out, drink and pay. The coffee is not scorching hot and an Italian would just down a whole espresso right when it touches his/her hands. When they have the chance, it’s still rather a quick affair. Simple caffe or milky drink (cappuccino, latte, macchiato) and some pastries. In my post “Forgetting the checklist in Italy”, I noted my wonderful experience at those little bars, where you could brush shoulder with the locals over a a an espresso, breakfast or had some wine after work. It’s a social place, not a drinking place. In fact I opine it’s all go down to socialization for Italians.
Italian also have meranda (afternoon snack) like kids in all school. They eat meranda similar to breakfast.
Then we have Pranzo (Lunch) and Cena (Dinner), the main meals. First you have il primo (first course), typically involving carb (rice, pasta). Then you have your Il secondi (the main course), with meat or fish and a side dish (“contorno” – typically salad – this can be a a separate dish as well). Then you can choose to have dolce (dessert). Then absolutely an espresso to finish. Wine is optional too. This is a normal meal structure.
In a more formal way, you will have Aperitivo (light appetizer) and Antipasto (heavier appetizer) before Il primo and also Insalata (salad, can be skipped if contorno is a salad) and Fromaggi e Frutta (cheese and fruit – easily skipped) after il secondi and prior to dessert and caffe. . Aperitivo is some simple stuff like olives, sauces, cheese, nuts, tiny little quiche. Antipasto is my favourite – it has antipasti! Prosciutto, salami, ham, charcuterie, cheese, bread-base dish (think Bruscheta – which pronounce brus-ket-ta not brus-Shet-a), vegie, salmon or prawn. I like this so much that so often I fill up myself with this. All these would end with a digestivo (grappa, limoncello, etc) to ease your digestion of an absolute feast!
Pranzo is seen as the most important meals of the day for Italian. These days, it often comes down to pizza and panini with the young due to the work hours. Talking of pizza, you eat a pizza freshly made at a pizzeria, full stop. Only a few restaurants offer pizzas. A fancy pizzeria in Florence cost you 10-12euro each. A top pizzeria in Salerno cost you 4-5 euro (the southern region of Italy is poorer than the north, hence the price). An average pizza in Capri would cost you 15-20 euro. A slide of pizza can cost as little as 50 cents. If you have the whole pizza, you eat with fork and knife and you can excuse that and use hands with a slide of pizza.
Do you know pizza is NOT originally from Italy? The flat bread was brought first to Napoli (a main port) by Greek merchants. The locals , mostly poor workers, then added tomato sauce on top. Gradually, more delicacies are added and the dishes become popular in all classes!
So that’s how you eat in Italy, in theory. I really don’t understand how Italian and eat all that and still look so doped! during my few weeks in Italy, as i must have dessert (such sweet tooth!), I normally have either il primo or il secondi. When I can resist to order both, I would skip the next meal. In fact, toward the last week in Capri and Salerno, I have dinner every other day!
So how do Italian eat at home? If you have guests, all hells break loose! At my airbnb experience in San Miniato, we started with champagne (to celebrate a newly wed couple), aperitivo, MANY antipasti (a few dishes), pasta, 2 desserts, endless wine and limoncello! In a normal day, as Gabriele showed me, just simple pasta would do for dinner.
And at last, Italian are very proud of their seasons local products. Cinque Terre for the pesto, San Miniato for white truffle, campania for lemons, Tuscany for its wine and wild boar, Napoli for pizza, Ischia for rabbits and biancoella, Bologna for bolognese sauce, Capri for caprese (both salad and pasta!) and the list go on. Everywhere you find incredible olive oil, tomatoes and GELATO!
There, that’s how Italian eat. Remember when in Rome, act like the Romans.