If you want a real kick, then try to find one of the huge open markets, which are always open on Saturdays and usually during other days, except Sunday, as well. You will find all types of cheese and meat on display. Italian bars in the centre of major cities charge more typically double whatever the final bill is if you drink or eat seated at a table outside rather than standing at the bar or taking your order to go. This is because bars are charged a very high tax to place tables and chair outside, so since most people do not use tables anyway, they had decided long ago to only charge those who do.
The further away you are from the center streets, the less this rule is applied. When calling into a bar for a coffee or other drink you first go to the cash register and pay for what you want. You then give the receipt to the barman, who will serve you. Restaurants - with the notable exception of Rome and the surrounding Lazio region, where such a charge is forbidden by law - charge a small coperto cover charge.
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You can be charged for bread, but if you don't want to pay for it just send it away. Some restaurants now levy a service charge, but this is far from common. In Italian restaurants a large tip is never expected. Just leave a euro or two and they will be more than happy. Upmarket restaurants usually refuse to make changes to proposed dishes exceptions warmly granted for babies or people on special diets.
Mid-range restaurants are usually more accommodating. For example, a simple pasta with tomato sauce may not be on the menu but a restaurant will nearly always be willing to cook one for kids who turn their noses up at everything else on the menu. If you are in a large group say four or more then it is appreciated if you don't all order a totally different pasta. While the sauces are pre-cooked the pasta is cooked fresh and it is difficult for the restaurant if one person wants spaghetti , another fettuccine , a third rigatoni , a fourth penne and a fifth farfalle butterfly shaped pasta.
If you attempt such an order you will invariably be told that you will have a long wait! When pizza is ordered, it is served as a primo even if formally it is not considered as such , together with other primi. If you order a pasta or pizza and your friend has a steak you will get your pasta dish, and probably when you've finished eating the steak will arrive. If you want primo and secondo dishes to be brought at the same time you have to ask. Restaurants which propose diet food , very few, usually write it clearly in menus and even outside; others usually don't have any dietetic resources.
People with coeliac disease may be surprised that many restaurants and shops offer gluten-free senza glutine food and the disease is generally well known. A Gastronomia is a kind of self-service restaurant normally you tell the staff what you want rather than serving yourself that also offers take-aways. This can give a good opportunity to sample traditional Italian dishes at fairly low cost.
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Note that these are not buffet restaurants. You pay according to what you order. The Cesarine of Home Food , present in many Italian places, spread and enhance the traditional recipes, the peculiarities of the territory of the local products and welcome guests within their houses, preparing for them courses from a menu in which intertwine skills, gastronomic tradition and unforgettable flavours. The Home Food project , with the patronage of the Ministry of Agriculture and the University of Bologna, stands for the protection and preservation of traditional food culture and typical products of Italy.
Through the creation of a virtuous circle and non-profit, Home Food, allows its members to be Guests at the table of Italian families and enjoy the food prepared by the lady of the houses, which are friendly called with the epithet of "Cesarine", and are the depositories of the ancient culinary know-how. Italians enjoy going out during the evenings, so it's common to have a drink in a bar before dinner.
It is called aperitivo. Within the last couple years, started by Milan, a lot of bars have started offering fixed-price cocktails at aperitivo hours 18 - 21 with a free, and often a very good, buffet meal. It's now widely considered stylish to have this kind of aperitivo called Happy Hour instead of a structured meal before going out to dance or whatever. While safe to drink, the tap water in some parts of Italy e. Sardinia, or parts of the South can be cloudy with a slight off taste.
Rome, in particular, has exceptional pride in the quality of its water. This goes right back to the building of aqueducts channeling pure mountain water to every citizen during Roman times. Don't waste plastic bottles! You can refill your drinking containers and bottles at any of the constant running taps and fountains dotted around the city, safe in the knowledge that you are getting excellent quality cool spring water - try it! Italian wine is exported all over the world, and names like Barolo, Brunello and Chianti are well-known.
In Italy wine is a substantial topic, a sort of test which can ensure either respect or lack of attention from an entire restaurant staff.
Doing your homework ensures that you will get better service, better wine and in the end may even pay less. The Denominazione di origine controllata certificate restricts above all the grape blend allowed for the wine, and in itself it is not yet a guarantee of quality. The same applies to the stricter Denominazione di origine controllata e garantita. These two denominations are indications of a traditional wine typical of the region, such as Chianti , and often a good partner for local food.
But some of the best Italian wines are labeled with the less strict Indicazione geografica tipica designation, often a sign of a more modern, "international" wine. So before reaching Italy, try to learn a little about the most important wines of the region you are planning to visit.
This will greatly increase you enjoyment. Italian cuisine varies greatly from region to region sometimes also from town to town , and wine reflects this variety. Italians have a long tradition of matching wines with dishes and often every dish has an appropriate wine. The popular "color rule" red wines with meat dishes, white wines with fish can be happily broken when proposed by a sommelier or when you really know what you are doing: Italy has many strong white wines to serve with meat a Sicilian or Tuscan chardonnay , as well as delicate red wines for fish perhaps an Alto Adige pinot noir.
Unlike in the UK, for example, the price mark-ups charged by restaurants for wines on their wine list are not usually excessive, giving you a chance to experiment. In the big cities, there are also many wine bars, where you can taste different wines by the glass, at the same time as eating some delicious snacks. Unlike in many other countries it is unusual for restaurants to serve wine by the glass. The vino della casa house wine can be an excellent drinking opportunity in small villages far from towns especially in Tuscany , where it could be what the patron would really personally drink or could even be the restaurant's own product.
It tends to be a safe choice in decent restaurants in cities as well.
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Vino della casa may come bottled but in lower-priced restaurants it is still just as likely to be available in a carafe of one quarter, one half or one litre. As a general rule, if the restaurant seems honest and not too geared for tourists, the house wine is usually not too bad.
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That said, some house wines can be dreadful and give you a nasty headache the next morning. If it doesn't taste too good it probably won't do you much good, so send it back and order from the wine list. Italians are justly proud of their wines and foreign wines are rarely served, but many foreign grapes like cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay are increasingly being used. Although wine is a traditional product, beer is very common as well. Beer did not quite belong to the Italian tradition in the way that wine does, but in the last odd years there has been an explosion of Irish-style pubs in every big town, with usually a huge selection of any kind of beer, ale, stout and cider, from every country in the world.
If you are serious about beer drinking, there are many bars that specialise in serving a wide range of bottled beers see city articles for more details , as well as Irish pubs and similar establishments. There is an increasing number of micro-breweries around the country. They often are run by local beer enthusiasts turned brewers, running small breweries with a pub attached. In the Trieste region it is far more common to drink Slovenian beers and the most popular brands are 'Union' and 'Zlatorag'. Limoncello, grappa, and amari, are usually served after a meal as an aid to digestion. If you are a good customer restaurants will offer a drink to you free of charge, and may even leave the bottle on your table for you to help yourself.
Beware that these are very strong drinks. Bars in Italy offer an enormous number of possible permutations for a way of having a cup of coffee.
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If you like that kind of stuff, better take your own. A bar will make coffee from a commercial blend of beans supplied by just one roaster. There are many companies who supply roast beans and the brand used is usually prominently displayed both inside and outside of the bar. So far so good. But here the permutations begin. For the same price as a normal coffee, you can ask for a dash of milk to be added to any of the above. This is called macchiato. But that dash of milk can be either hot caldo or cold freddo. Any one of these options can also be had decaffeinated.
If you are really in need of a pick-me-up you can ask for a double dose of coffee, or a doppio.
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You have to specify this when you pay at the cash register and it costs twice as much as a normal coffee. This usually involves adding grappa, brandy or sambuca; "corrected" being the Italian expression corresponding to "spiked". Normally it is only a plain coffee that is corrected but there is no reason why you should not correct any of the above combinations.