Italian food you’re ordering wrong in Italy

Italian Food in Italy

It’s like going to Philadelphia and ordering a “Philly cheese-steak” or asking for “French Fries” in Belgium. There are just certain things you shouldn’t do when ordering Italian food in Italy. They take their Italian food very, very seriously – from where you eat it to how you eat it and when. Ordering the wrong thing can be tantamount to a crime and cause people to gasp or shake their heads in disapproval. Nothing says “Hey I’m a tourist!” like ordering the wrong thing, the wrong way.

I’ve been here for almost a week now and everyday I’m learning more and more about the Italian food I’ve loved all my life.

Italian food

Learn from these  common mistakes and you’ll be less likely to get your knuckles rapped in an Italian trattoria.

Ordering “Spaghetti Bolognese” | Italian food

Italian food

No such thing.  The meat sauce you love is Bolognese Ragu and (thank goodness) it exists, but no Italian who doesn’t want to face ridicule would order it with spaghetti. Certain pastas are paired with certain sauces in Italy and I’m told if you’ve got a Ragu, penne or tagliatelle is the way to go.  Save your spaghetti for carbonara.

Asking for Italian Wedding Soup | Italian food

Again, no Italian food by that name exists here.  Never did. The closest thing to what North Americans are thinking of is a dish by the name of “minestra mariata” which literally translates to “married soup.” The whole thing about brides and grooms getting it ahead of their wedding night for some extra…errr…vigor… is nothing but rumour. The “marriage” refers to its ingredients (meat and vegetables) and how well they go together.

Eating pineapple on your pizza | Italian food

 

Italian food

Order it that way in a proper Italian pizzeria and you risk getting your cheeks pinched. Fruit is good – just not on your pizza. In fact, if you are in a restaurant where “Hawaiian pizza” is on the menu, you’re in the wrong restaurant. Margherita will win you the most brownie points but you can get away with other traditional toppings. This doesn’t mean you don’t have plenty of options. The menu at Be Bop in Milan had about two dozen options spread over two pages and not a fruit to be seen.

 

Ordering a Latte | Italian food

 

Italian food

 

“Latte” means milk in Italian. If you want a tall glass of that by all means sidle up to the counter and ask, but if what you’re looking for is coffee, you’ve got a few options. Some of the more popular ones:

Caffe – Literally translates to “coffee” but means “espresso.” YOu’ll get a tiny cup with some strong contents.

Cappuccino – Just like the one you know at home, but order it after late morning and they’ll know you’re a tourist. It’s strictly a morning drink here.

Caffe machiatto –  small espresso with a bit of steamed milk on top (like a mini latte at home)

Latte machiatto – bigger cup, steamed milk with a “stain” of coffee (i.e. mostly milk)

Disclosure: My trip to Italy is a part of the #Blog Ville campaign, managed by iambassador in partnership with the Emilia-Romagna tourism board and the Regione Lombardia.
As always, Globetrotting Mama maintains full editorial control of any and all content published on this site.

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{ 22 comments… add one }

Jean | Holy Smithereens September 14, 2014, 11:02 PM

Very useful tips Heather! I’ll be heading to Italy in 6 weeks so I definitely need these pointers :) Great advice on the type of pasta to go with Ragu!

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Heather September 15, 2014, 9:33 AM

Thanks Jean. I wish I’d known some of these before I came. Luckily I had great travel partners who set me straight! Enjoy your trip!

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Alex September 16, 2014, 7:41 AM

This is so helpful! I would have no idea how to order anything anywhere. You should write a whole series of these so we in-the-dark tourists don’t make fools of ourselves. :)

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Heather September 16, 2014, 2:25 PM

LOL. I just might Alex!

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Rebecca September 16, 2014, 10:31 AM

I love this. Meat sauce on spaghetti always felt wrong to me, too, even if it is half of what I ate growing up.

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Heather September 16, 2014, 2:27 PM

Me too Rebecca! When I was telling my boys about it this morning, my oldest just said “That makes so much sense!” Yup. :)

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Gina September 17, 2014, 12:27 AM

The cappuccino in the morning thing always drives me crazy because I want to drink cappuccinos all day in Italy. They’re soooo good there!

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Heather September 17, 2014, 4:03 AM

Gina, they are aren’t they?!? I don’t usually drink espresso but I got used to it there. Hard habit to drop now that I’m home. :)

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James September 17, 2014, 4:46 AM

Some of these “rules” are annoying though. So what if I fancy a cappuccino at 6pm? Or if I take red wine with *gasp* white meat etc. There are cultural gaffes, and then there’s what I kinda fancy just because. Though when it comes to ordering something that simply doesn’t exist locally, that’s obviously different.

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James September 17, 2014, 4:48 AM

(to confirm, I mean the local customs — not this article’s interpretation of them!).

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Heather September 17, 2014, 5:00 AM

I hear you James. Of course the rules aren’t laws. Nobody dies if you wear white after labour day, right? ;) What I find interesting though is how quickly locals label you “tourist” when you break them and as someone who loves to “live like a local” I find it fun to assimilate a bit while there. My post is – and I know you know this – a bit tongue in cheek. Red wine with white meat? Bring it on! :)

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James September 17, 2014, 5:10 AM

He he. Exactly. As a Brit living in Spain, I know the local customs, speak the language etc, but feel less self conscious on the small stuff. I love freaking out locals by having English tea with lunch, etc.

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Heather September 17, 2014, 5:15 AM

ha! Love it!

Colleen Lanin September 20, 2014, 12:08 AM

OK…now I’m craving Italian food!

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Heather September 20, 2014, 4:50 PM

Colleen, let’s just say pasta is on the menu this week. ;)

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Corinne September 20, 2014, 11:59 AM

It all looks so good!

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Heather September 20, 2014, 4:50 PM

It all TASTED soooo good Corinne. I’m in serious withdrawal this week.

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Jen Wilson September 21, 2014, 5:43 PM

I now need to go to Italy. Immediately.

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Heather September 24, 2014, 11:01 PM

Yes, you do Jen. Yes, you do. ;)

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Katie September 23, 2014, 11:35 AM

Love this. I made the cappuccino error once and learned my lesson!

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Heather September 24, 2014, 11:01 PM

ha! Thanks Katie. I’m sure there are more rules. Need to get back and figure them out :)

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