5 Things to Know about Italians before eating Italian

February 21, 2022

Italian food is one of the most (arguably for some, the best) popular cuisines in the world, and for good reason. It’s delicious! But before you dig in, there are a few things you should know about Italian culture and food.

Many people have a fear of dining in an Italian restaurant because they aren’t sure if they’ll “be able to understand what’s going on”. Well, this article is here to address 5 Italian ‘rules’ you may appreciate having awareness about. Enjoy!

1) First thing first: How do I sit down?

While it may seem strange having someone simultaneously place a plate in front of you while another brings over silverware wrapped inside a napkin, it is the Italian way. Italians want to give you your utensils as quickly as possible because they know you are hungry and if the fish doesn’t get to your table fast enough (which sometimes happens), you will not be happy. Don’t worry about what utensils go where; there’s nothing on the table that has not been there before or won’t be brought at some point in time, so don’t stress over it. Just keep an open mind and let them do their job.

2) Who pays? 

In Italy, everyone shares from family style plates, but generally someone will pay for dinner – specifically whoever doesn’t cook dinner that night. If that seems confusing, consider this: most Italians go home after work, cook fish (or pasta with fish sauce) for dinner, and then sit down to eat. If everyone in the family is home for dinner, they’ll all contribute by cooking fish according to their own recipe (or fish bought local). It is not uncommon for each person to pay his or her own way.

When it comes to dining at the best Italian food places, the payment could differ based on the family or the social group you’re dining with, so do check in with them!

3) Italians love fish

Why fish? One of the many amazing things about Italian cuisine is that fish plays a big role in it; mostly because fish can be caught within miles of most coastal towns. Seafood like octopus, squid/calamari, sardines/anchovies (sardines are pilchards), sea bass/branzino, swordfish/pesce spada, tuna steaks/tonno, grouper/orata, sea bream/dentice, sole fish/sogliola, red mullet fish/triglia are all fish that Italians love.

The fish is then cooked in a variety of ways: it can be grilled whole or stuffed with other fish and baked in the oven; it can also be pan-fried whole or cut into cubes for cioppino or fish stew. The fish can even be cured raw to make fish like baccala – a dish where the fish is salted overnight so it swells up enough to sell but not spoil. This process gives the fish a very strong taste which some people may find unappealing (like Germans), while others will appreciate the robust salt-fish flavor (like the fish-loving French). Whatever fish you’re served, just open your mind and face into it. You’ll be surprised how much fish other nationalities can eat when they know how delicious it is.

4) Italians use lots of fresh herbs and spices in their cooking

The best Italian food involves the use of many types of herbs and spices. If you’re looking for a flavourful and authentically Italian dining experience, you’ll want to check out the many restaurants that incorporate fresh herbs and spices into their cooking. From Rome to Naples, Italians are known for their love of flavourful food, and this is certainly reflected in the dishes they serve up. So if you’re looking to spice up your next Italian meal, be sure to ask our waiter about the restaurant’s specialties!

The most popular herbs and spices you’ll find will be the ones you’ll find in almost every dish: garlic, tomato, basil, oregano, thyme, pepper; these are the base flavours of Italian cooking. If you’re looking for something more extreme like chili powder or jalapeno peppers (the preferred pepper in Naples), feel free to ask our waiters about it when ordering!

5) Italians take their food seriously – it’s not just a means to an end, it’s an art form

If you’re like most Americans, you think of Italian food as being just a way to fill your stomach. And while it can definitely do that, Italians take their food much more seriously than that. They see it as an art form, and every dish is painstakingly prepared with the utmost care and attention to detail.

Consequently, they make sure their fish is fresh caught and cooked to perfection. The fish is never overcooked or over-salted, rather it’s cooked with just enough herbs and spices to make it as memorable as possible. When fish is this fresh, there’s no need for heavy seasonings because the fish will speak for itself. If you are lucky, the fish might even be thrown on top of fresh marinara sauce which is very different than what you would find in fish and chips or fish sticks. The fish is again cooked with just enough seasoning to give it some flavour, but not much more because fish this fresh does not need anything to mask the flavour.

That’s all for this blog post! Thanks for reading this article about 5 things to know about Italians before eating Italian. I hope these tips will help make for a more enjoyable dining experience at Gary’s with us, as we promise to serve up only the best Italian food. Bon Appetit!