Eating means culture in Italy, it is celebrated like a ritual. It's never just a side issue, you never shovel heaps of noodles into your stomach just to get full. Never! For this reason, an Italian cena (dinner) also consists of a series of menus: beginning with an antipasto (the appetizer), followed by the primo piatto, which is usually a pasta or rice dish, secondo piatto - meat or fish with vegetables or Salad, the end is crowned with a sweet dolce, as the name suggests, and a caffè, an Italian espresso.
In Italy it is not difficult to find a good trattoria or an excellent restaurant. You just have to follow the Italians who storm the place around 8 or 9pm. But how is it actually in Germany? We'll tell you eight tricks that you can use to tell whether the Italian is worth a visit or whether you should rather turn your back on him. Some tricks and rules are of course meant with a wink. But remember the expression: "Non si fa!" You do not do that! It's very popular in Italy.
Trick 1: Order simple dishes: pasta with tomato sauce, carbonara or aglio e olio.
Trick 2: Mozzarella is never served with balsamic vinegar and pepper. Never! Olive oil and salt are the main ingredients.
Trick 3: Vegetable antipasti does not taste sour, but impresses with the natural taste of the vegetables.
Trick 4: Pasta with fish AND parmesan - that's not right! The parmesan has no place in the fish.
Trick 5: Scaloppins are thin and made from veal. And no pork meatballs.
Trick 6: If the toppings are falling off a pizza, it's just not good. The base must be crisp and crunchy and not too thick. And drink beer with pizza - never wine.
Trick 7: house wine must taste good and is not expensive. Point.
Trick 8: Cappuccino is a breakfast, not a digestif.
Pine nuts or anchovy fillets have no place in pasta aglio e olio - they spoil the taste. What really goes in? Aglio e olio means garlic and oil. That's why these are the main ingredients of this simple dish. The combination with Peperoncino (dried chili peppers), flat-leaf parsley or freshly grated Parmesan is also very popular. Simple, very quick and incredibly delicious.
Mozzarella is often served as a salad - the insalata caprese is an Italian starter salad made from mozzarella, tomatoes and basil. Because of its colors - red, white and green, which correspond to the flag of Italy - it is considered a national dish. Often the service with the salad is enough vinegar - preferably balsamic vinegar - olive oil, salt and pepper. Fatal! Because if you present buffalo mozzarella or burrata with balsamic vinegar and pepper, you spoil the taste of the fine cheese. There really isn't much that needs to be done with the insalata caprese - apart from olive oil and salt.
Who doesn't love them, the antipasti? Antipasto stands for the Italian expression 'before the meal' and refers to the appetizer in Italian cuisine. Small dishes such as air-dried cold cuts of ham or salami, Italian cheese specialties such as Parmesan or Pecorino make the start. But also pickled vegetables in a touch of vinegar and a good portion of olive oil. Aubergines, courgettes, mushrooms and peppers are often found on display in Italian restaurants. That's not too bad, only that in Germany the vinegar often seems to slip out of hand. How else can it be explained that the antipasti often taste far too sour - an absolute no-go. Good Italians can be recognized by the fact that the vegetables develop their wonderful taste of their own and taste neither too sweet nor too sour.
Any real Italian would flee the restaurant immediately if the waiter served him a pasta dish with fish and heaps of Parmigiano (Parmesan cheese) on top. "Non si fa," the Romans would roar. You do not do that! Fish and cheese is an Italian taboo, no need to talk about it.
Scaloppine are, so to speak, the Italian schnitzel. They are in no way comparable to a hearty Viennese-style schnitzel made from pork. Scaloppine are the elegant and fine relatives of our schnitzel. Because they're veal, never pork - and they're flat, thin, and small. If anyone tells you otherwise, run away...
Trick 6: Pizza
You can find them on every street corner: in fast food shops, in pseudo-Italian restaurants, even at the bakery. But we must never forget that we are not in Italy. Because the bakers are not comparable to the Italian ones, nor are the fast-food shops. We do have good pizza, but not very often. Nevertheless, you can distinguish any good pizza from a bad one with these basic rules: Pineapple does not belong on a pizza. Also no lamb. No peas and no corn. The floor - is a topic in itself. But actually, just looking at the pizza is enough to know whether it will taste good or not. If the rubber floats on it: "No!". If the soil is too thick: "No!". If it isn't crispy and crunchy: "No!". Good pizza can be so simple. And never drink wine with pizza. There is beer with pizza, optionally water, but just no wine.
No matter what other people tell you - every good Italian actually offers a cheap and good house wine. It goes without saying that this won't be the top wine you might be imagining. But the Italians don't drink wine because of the wine itself, but actually to eat. And that's where an open house wine usually goes best. It is easy to drink, tasty and does not overpower the fine taste of the food. If it doesn't exist, don't go there anymore.
In fact, everyone should be allowed to drink what they like. But in Italy there are a few culinary rules that cannot always be rationally justified. Nevertheless: Non si fa!
Therefore rule of thumb number 1: A cappuccino is a breakfast. The Italians don't eat breakfast as extensively as we Germans, no, not at all. They prefer to meet in a "bar" (meaning the coffee bar) they trust and order a cappuccino. Either that's enough or a cornetto (a breakfast croissant) follows, which is lovingly dipped in the caffè (Italian espresso) or in the cappuccino. In Germany, if you order a cappuccino after dinner, the waiter will of course serve it. But actually: Non si fa! After the meal, an espresso, i.e. a caffè, is drunk, not breakfast - in Italy you would immediately be exposed as a tourist or you would be thrown out of the restaurant in a high arc. This is of course a joke. Nevertheless: If the waiter offers you a cappuccino after your dinner, you can turn your back on this restaurant - he is not really Italian.