Italians take their food very seriously, and almost every Roman family eats out at least once a week, usually on Sundays. A great deal of fun can be had from trying out different surroundings for lunch and dinner, and sampling various kinds of Italian food. Remember that a ristorante wili serve your formal meals, giving you a long list of dishes to choose from. A trattoria is a more homely establishment, where prices are rather lower and the surroundings more typically Italian. Outside the city limits, you may even turn into an osteria, which is simpler still, and often has only wine, bread and spaghetti to offer.
Restaurants of every type can be found in all parts of Rome, and many are known for their own specialities. Several claim to make the only perfect fettuccine — a kind of noodles, cut into long, flat strips and served with butter. Others specialise in fish: try a fritto misto mare, made from scampi (prawns) and calamaretti (baby octopus), turned in flour and egg and fried golden brown in oil; it has a delicious flavour and is very popular with locals.
The fettuccine mentioned above are, of course, only one of the countless varieties of pasta, round which the Italian kitchen revolves. Other kinds are spaghetti, ravioli (little pouches of pasta, filled with meat or spinach), and cannelloni, long rolls filled with minced meat and baked with cheese. Italians usually eat pasta in place of soup, and follow it with a meat dish. Pasta is generally served either with tomato or with bolognese sauce, made from chopped meats.
The best meat in Italy, is usually veal (vitello); for British and American tastes the beef (manzo) is often too young. Note that the word bistecca (which really means beefsteak) is applied to virtually any piece of grilled meat. It is possible to eat green salad (insalata verde) at every season in Italy; you will be surprised how many kinds there are. Try a buffalo mozzarella and tomato salad for starters – delicious with local olive oil drilled over the tomatoes.
Wine is the natural accompaniment to Italian meals and of course Italy is well known for producing some of the best wines in the world. You can ask for bottled wine, if you wish (such as red Chianti in the straw-covered flask, or the white Soave), but every restaurant has excellent cheap, open wines, both red and white (rosso e bianco), which you order in flagons of 1% pints (un litro), nearly one pint (mezzo litro), or nearly half-a-pint (quartino). In summer, wine is most refreshing mixed with one of the many Italian natural mineral waters.
A word on paying. Every Italian restaurant makes a small charge for ‘bread and covers’, (pane e coperto) at the top of the bill. A 10%-15% service charge is nearly always added, but it is usual to leave a trifle extra, if you have been well served. You will find most Italian restaurants have very friendly and helpful waiters who contribute to your evening meal.
You can get little cups of strong Italian espresso coffee wherever you see the sign ‘Bar’ — and they often have free wi-fi there too. If you want coffee with milk or cream, ask for a cappuccino. And remember, if you sit down at a table, it will cost twice or three times as much as if you take it as most Italians do — standing at the counter.
Italy is famous for its food and drink and sampling the culinary delights is one of the great pleasures of taking a trip to Italy. Try to go where the locals go to eat and you will be blessed with some of the tastiest food you could imagine.