Italian table etiquette?!


Italian table etiquette?

Children are taught etiquette at an early age. They often accompany their parents out to dinner and have many chances to learn proper etiquette at the table.

Watch your hands, elbows and..

Keep elbows close the the body so as not to disturb those sitting on either side.
Keep both hands visible on the table (not resting on in your lap lap). In times past this was necessary to show that the person was not holding a weapon under the table! It works well for Italians because they can gesticulate with both hands while conversing.
Food is managed with both hands. The fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand. (or vice versa for left-handed people).
Pieces are cut one at a time.
Whenever possible, fruit is eaten with a fork and a knife -- when in doubt, watch the host(ess).
One eats with the fork in the left hand while holding the knife. This style of eating is almost universal in the Western World, the U.S.A. is different.
When you are finished eating, the knife and fork are placed on the plate together, diagonally across the plate.
Come bearing gifts...
If you have been invited to dinner, never arrive late. Chances are the hostess is preparing a first course risotto or pasta and neither one can wait to be eaten.

You should arrive with a gift - a bottle of excellent wine or flowers. This thanks the hostess in advance for preparing a good meal. "Vengo a bussare con i piedi" I will come and knock on your door with my feet means that your arms are filled with gifts.

Be prepared for the shortest cocktail hour on record - more like a cocktail minute. You will be offered an aperativo which is usually a drink with a tiny bit of alcohol in it. Everyone goes "Salute" , drinks it down and then you move to the table.

Setting the table

The knife and soup spoon are placed to the right.
The fork(s) are placed on the left.
Water and wine glasses are placed to the upper right.
The large plate for the second course holds the smaller plate for antipasto.
When the smaller plate is removed, it is replaced by a bowl for soup or risotto or pasta.

The most important lady is served first; then the most important gentleman is served and the hostess is served last.
Serving plates are passed around informally.
The antipasti can be passed around twice.
Bread should be in small pieces so it is not necessary to cut it at the table. After it is served to you, you may rest the bread to one side on the tablecloth - do not ask for a bread plate.
Each course is served in a serving plate.
Warm antipasto should be served before cold antipasto
Broth and soups should be served in soup bowls the serving bowl is not passed around and seconds are never offered.
Pasta, on the other hand, should be served in a large serving plate and seconds can be offered.
Fish is served whole and divided afterwards.
Roasts are served already cut or divided into pieces. Never carve a roast (or turkey) at the table.
Salad is served in a plate put to the left of each person and must be dressed after it arrives at the table and served before the course it acompanies. Salad is served in a glass, china or wooden bowl never in a metal bowl.
When cheese is served, at least 4 different kinds must be offered. The cheese should be removed from the refrigerator at least one hour before it is served.
Before dessert is served the bread must be removed from the table.
Sweets and gelato are served immediately after the cheese and before the fruit.
Cakes are presented whole and then cut into pieces at the table.
Pastries are served on a tray with dessert wines and coffee.
Clean plates and food are served to the left and plates are removed from the right one at a time.
Wine and Water

Water is on the table when the guests are seated. The water glasses are filled never more than one-half full.
Wine can be served by the man of the house at any time. Again, the glass is filled only half full.
Water and wine are served from the right.
If different wines are served, the glasses must be changed. Wine should be served in the following order:
light, white wine
light red wine
heavy red wine
Red wine should be opened ahead of time.
Dessert wine is served at the table.
Coffee and liquers should be served in the livingroom


If we're talking "real" Italian, like eating in Italy, be prepared to sit, drink, eat for hours with many courses; My first encounter with this was in Sicily when I was 19 at my boyfriend, Luigi's, home; his mom made soup, then Pasta with meatballs and sausages, bread; Delectable! I ate so much; little did I know it was only the first/primera course; when I told Luigi I didn't think I could eat anymore, he said it was an insult; so ate for HOURS! meats, cheeses, fish, chicken; I was stuffed; when I was done, I of course had to use the bathroom; walked into an old metal pull chain toilet with the tank about 5 ft up the wall; after finishing, I kept pulling on the chain, finally pulling down a brick which broke part of the commode; no one told me to take the bucket and thrown water into make it flush! Anyway, moral is, Eat, Drink and be Merry! Pace yourself, and don't yank too hard on any chains...

Only drink milky coffee like cappucino or latte machiato during morning (before 11am). Have espresso after 11am. Hot drinks are never served with the meal after breakfast, they serve coffee or tea after the meal. Try not to have a soda pop with dinner, enjoy sparkling water (gassata) and local wine. Bread is often without side service plates and can be broken by hand and put directly on tablecloths. Butter is not served with bread. When dining, the man should pour the wine, as it is considered unfeminine for a woman to pour wine. Infact let the host pour the wine. Also, do not drink too much wine during a meal because wine is seen almost as a food, thus, over consumption is considered rude. Try to order at least 2 courses with a dinner - otherwise it seems rather unsophisticated or sad. Pasta is a starter not a main course. If others order antipasti, pasta, and a main course -- you need to have the same so that you are part of the festivity.

Roll pasta with your fork slanted at an angle toward the side of your pasta plate. Don’t use a spoon to help roll pasta on your fork. Keep both hands above the table during dinner -- never on your lap. Do not put your elbows on the table. Use your knife (not your fingers) to pick up pieces of cheese to put them on your bread or cracker. Eat fruit with a fruit knife and fork, except for grapes and cherries. When finished eating, place knife and fork (tines up) side by side on the plate at the 5:25 position. The fork should be on the left and the knife should be on the right with the blade of the knife facing the fork. Leave your wineglass almost full if you don't want a refill.

It is usual to attract the waiters attention by calling him "cameriere" and her "Signorina" if young and "Signora" if older, "Per favore", please. It is very rude to whistle or click your fingers, whereas a wave or beckoning sign are acceptable.You need to signal that you are finished eating in a restaurant and want the check- it is considered rude to rush diners before they may be ready to leave (casual places may clear and leave a check but you can sit as long as you like.) You may use the phrase "senta", which means, "please come here." In bars and gelatarias pay for your item first, get a receipt and then show the barista your receipt to get served.

When invited to someone's home, allow the hostess to begin eating before guests. Wait for the hostess to offer a second helping. Bring a small gift for the host or hostess. Then, send flowers or a gift to the host's home the day of or the day after a party. Give chocolates, flowers (an uneven number) and pastries. Chrysanthemums are a symbol of death, red roses are symbols of love or passion. Don’t give knives or scissors, which are considered bad luck. Send a thank you note after being entertained or given a gift. Stand when an older person enters the room.

And always take a stroll in the main streets (passeggiata) after a meal like the locals. Say buon giorno for meeting and arrividerchi for good bye rather than 'Ciao' to people you dont know well. When introduced to a stranger you are expected to use "Signore" (Mr.) and "Signora" (Mrs.), plus the family name when addressing them.
Also dress - your clothing (particularly shoes) will be perceived as a reflection of your social standing and relative success.

The consumer Foods information on is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions.
The answer content post by the user, if contains the copyright content please contact us, we will immediately remove it.
Copyright © 2007 FoodAQ - Terms of Use - Contact us - Privacy Policy

Food's Q&A Resources