Are You Expected To Order 4 Courses For Every Meal In Italy?

Italy is a magical place full of beautiful scenery, art, history, and best of all, incredible food. If you plan on visiting, it's helpful to understand Italian customs so you feel more comfortable and don't stand out as a tourist. Food is an integral part of the Italian culture and understanding how they eat their meals is a great place to start.

Many menus will have several courses listed, including antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni, and dolci (via Food & Wine). Antipasti is similar to an appetizer and is often something like a piece of bruschetta. Primi is the first main dish and is usually pasta or risotto. Secondi is another main course and is usually some type of meat or fish. Finally, contorni is a side dish, such as vegetables or stuffed artichokes, and dolci is a sweet treat. 

Keep in mind, the portions in Italy during a meal like this are not overwhelming. Also, in Italy, meals often end with a coffee. The four-course meal in Italy is common, but what is appropriate when visiting? Will you insult the host or restaurant if you can't eat four courses? Thankfully, no you will not.

Eat what you like

Feel free to order four courses when dining out in Italy, but don't feel like you must. Those long, drawn-out meals are usually reserved for big events. The restaurant manager at Le Jardin de Russie in Rome, Raffaele Ruggerio tells Food & Wine, "... If I want to have an evening with my wife or friends, it's rare that I eat such a big meal because it's a lot." 

Certainly, part of the experience of dining out is taking your time. Feel free to stretch out a meal in Italy as long as you like. Just don't feel pressured to order from every course on the menu. 

With Italy's focus on excellent food, you'll want to experience homemade pasta, and many other Italian dishes everyone should try, such as the classic dessert, tiramisu, or Rome's famous carbonara. Touring Italy isn't a time to watch your waistline, instead it's a time to indulge your senses in all it has to offer. Go ahead and enjoy that with a four-course meal if you like, or simply enjoy a dinner of pasta and dessert.