The Italian Menu Staple Chefs Think You Should Stop Wasting Money On

Most of us have been ordering off menus for longer than we can remember. But, while everyone knows the struggle of trying to pick between two equally appealing items, most people don't think that the act of ordering from a menu requires any special skill. However, chefs and food critics would disagree. Next time you eat out, pause to consider why items are on the menu. Understanding which items are best made at home can level up your experience — and provide you with more bang for your buck. One such item is margherita pizza. 

Chef Julia Helton told Insider that the dish, a simple combination of sauce, mozzarella, and basil is "a total rip-off." You'll be paying a significant markup, and, with readily-available ingredients and a straightforward recipe, the pizza is cheap and easy to make at home. 

With its thick crust and sparse yet flavorful ingredients, margherita pizza is a classic example of Neopolitan cuisine. Naples, the birthplace of pizza, takes great pride in its pies: There are even official guidelines to determine an "authentic" Neopolitan pizza. However, unless you're in Italy, you'll be hard-pressed to find truly authentic Neopolitan pizzas at a local restaurant. So perhaps it's best to try your hand at an easy at-home Margherita pizza.

What should you order at a restaurant?

So what is worth your money? Chefs recommend opting for labor-intensive menu items or dishes with hard-to-come-by ingredients. Braised meats — which can take up to 12 hours to make — are a smart move, as are homemade pasta dishes. Hate deep-frying at home? Use the opportunity to try arancini

While many restaurant items are cheaper and easier to make at home, restaurants aren't necessarily trying to scam guests. Dishes with a high markup are on the menu for a reason: Restaurants tend to have a low-profit margin, so cheap, easy-to-make items help cover costs. While wine and pizza make a tidy profit, they help cover the price of things like seafood and steak, which restaurants often serve at a loss. In turn, these big-ticket items bring customers through the door. 

Ultimately, you shouldn't overanalyze the menu to the extent that it ruins your restaurant experience. If you're really craving that margherita, then go ahead and get the margherita. You'll leave satisfied and support the restaurant business in the process.