The Trick To Tasting Everything At Restaurants In Italy Without Wasting Food

Are you traveling to Italy soon? If so, you're probably ready to eat your way through the country because of its rich culinary history. After all, some of the most delicious foods like arancini, pasta dishes like carbonara, and pizza originated here. No matter what you eat during your travels, you're in for a treat because Italian cuisine is known for its seasonally fresh ingredients. But when it comes to ordering at a restaurant, don't let your eyes get bigger than your stomach, because those flavorful leftovers probably won't make it back to your hotel.

Why? For the most part, getting takeout containers for leftovers just isn't done in Italy like here in the U.S. There are various explanations for this culinary tradition. For starters, the food is made to order and chefs want you to enjoy the dishes fresh, not later when it's cold or reheated (and soggy) in a microwave. Serving sizes are also smaller than what you're probably used to in the U.S. so that you can enjoy multiple courses without getting too full. In recent years, the country has encouraged restaurants to offer doggy bags to reduce food waste, but it's still not a widespread practice. Honestly, carrying a box of leftover pizza around Rome or Milan doesn't sound ideal anyway.

Avoiding food waste when dining out in Italy

To get around the lack of doggy bags at restaurants in Italy, there are a couple of ways to avoid wasting your leftovers. Start with ordering antipasto for the table. Antipasto is the first course in Italian cuisine, and consists of bite-sized portions including platters filled with olives, cheeses, cured meats, peppers, and bread for the table. Other antipasto dishes include arancini, bruschetta, and salads if you want to keep it light. Ordering antipasto allows you to taste different, fresh bites without getting too full before your main. You can also skip the primi course, which is typically pasta that is eaten before the entree. And if you still can't decide on an entree, order different dishes and split it family style with the table.

Another trick to ordering at a restaurant in Italy is to order a "mezza porzione", which translates to a half portion. Not every dish can be prepared this way so be understanding if the kitchen says it's not possible. But ordering half portions is common in Italy so you should be fine with this request for the most part. At many restaurants, you pay a reduced price for the smaller portion, giving you some extra cash to buy those souvenirs to take back home — or to spend on creamy gelato during your sightseeing.