Monday, July 28, 2008

Buon Americano Buon Appetito

The Italians are very easy going. They love their culture, their food, and they especially love when travelers embrace being Italian while visiting Bella Terra.One of the best things Italy delivers to you is the food. It will set a whole new level of expectation as to what good is when dining. Everything from the bread to the dolci. Espresso is a religious experience. Pizza is an artform. Fresh fruit will give you the chills. The cheese and salamis are in fact second to none (sorry France). The pasta and the endless variety of pasta sauces will amaze you.

I recommend writing in a journal throughout your entire visit to Italy. Write down the name of the cafe, the city, what you ate or drank, and rate it. Almost every restaurant has a card at the host station to grab. Be sure to grab one and drop in in your envelope of cards. They will keep the memories alive in your scrapbook and be fun to look through in the years to come.

The key to getting the most out of your dining experience is to embrace each meal. Go outside of your comfort zone and stay away from staples. Don't pass on a wonderful spaghetti marinara, but compliment your meal with an out of your box second course. Try a different dessert at each meal. Try a different gelato flavor each'll eat it 4 times a day so you'll have plenty of time to enjoy your favorite.

Here are some tips to get the most out of your dining experience.

1. Be polite. Service goes much slower in Italy...don't be offended. They aren't blowing you off. The Italians enjoy dining as a full experience to be slowly enjoyed. Embrace it.

2. Try to speak a bit of Italian. They'll know you aren't fluent and won't expect you to know more than the basics. Try to say hello, thank you, where's the bathroom, etc. They'll love it and you'll be surprised at how much fun it is.

3. Ask the server for his / her recommendation. "Che cosa ci consiglia per primi piatte, secodi piatte, dolci, antipasti. You will then be delivered excellent recommendations and specials of the day that will raise your meal to a new level.

4. Ask for a wine recommendation in addition to your meal.

5. Many times they will offer a "misto" of dishes per course if you ask. You will be surprised that in Italy this is a compliment. In the U.S. restaurants will be offended. Not in Italy. They want to share their culture and food with you at every turn.

6. Don't assume the server speaks English. Ask if he / she does "Parla inglese?"The key is to take your time, try new things, be polite, tip, and you'll have a wonderful meal every time.
Don't forget. The server is not going to bring your bill (conto) until you ask for it. It is impolite in Italy to assume a table is finished. The sign to ask for you bill is the same in the U.S. as in Italy. An imaginary pen in hand as if you are signing a credit card slip works perfectly.There is a full article on the unabellavista tips page that you can download and enjoy. I also cover this topic in my podcasts on iTunes.

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