Italian cuisine is immensely popular outside Italy but not every Italian restaurant is serving you traditional Italian food. The American version of Italian cuisine is what you have been eating all these years and it’s high time you visit an authentic Italian restaurant in NYC to experience what Italian food tastes like in its true sense.


Why Does Italian Food Taste Different in Different Countries?

Italy takes pride in its food and wine. Even though Italian recipes are not exactly the same all over Italy, the slight differences on regional levels are what make food from every region taste so special. One thing, however, is common among Italians, no matter which city or region they belong to. They cook their food with time, patience, and fresh ingredients. And there is no way they are going to compromise on that.

However, when the same food is prepared in high-paced, developed countries like the US, time and freshness may not be given the same importance. While it is justified in a country like the US, it definitely affects the essence of Italian cuisine which cannot be justified.

In addition to that, there is a difference in the quality of ingredients as well. Now that does not mean Italian restaurants in America are using low-quality ingredients. The difference obviously lies in the production. The atmosphere and different climatic conditions play a significant role here.

Anyway, these differences should not stop you from trying Italian food exactly how Italians like.

Structure of Italian Meals and Courses

Italian cuisine is enjoyed in a structured manner. You cannot and definitely should not order meals as and however, you like. Italian cuisine is divided into 4 courses that include starters, first course, main course, and desserts. However, you are not obliged to have all of them. The courses are simply to create a difference between the type of meals and dishes that you can order at a given time and which meal should be followed by another.

Starters (Antipasti)

Starters are usually cold dishes and curated meat that is served with fruits. In several Italian restaurants, they have a bar, cart, or table dedicated to antipasti dishes and you are supposed to help yourself but that is not the case everywhere. Antipasti is served to stimulate your appetite.

First Course (Primi)

The first course includes dishes like soups, pasta, risotto, and pizza. Basically, meals that are high in carbohydrates or starch are served as a first meal or primi, as they are known in Italy. They are filling but still allow you to have enough space to enjoy secondi, the main course.

Main Course (Secondi)

The main course in Italian cuisine is protein-based. Expect all sorts of meats and fish-based meals here. The best thing about having fish and meat in an authentic Italian restaurant is that you can taste how fresh the ingredients are. Fresh fish and meat taste different. And, if you are experiencing this same thing in Italy, they will make sure to get the freshness of the fish checked by you before cooking it for your table. Protein-based meals are of course extremely filling and you will enjoy eating them to the fullest.

Dessert (Dolci)

Once you are done with your meal, you can choose to order dessert. Fruits are also served at the end of the meal so feel free to order but to try out the traditional Italian desserts, there is nothing better than tiramisu and panna cotta. There are several other options as well but these two desserts top the list for all the right reasons.

Contorni (Side Dishes) and Formaggi (Cheese Course)

Other than the four courses, there are side dishes that you can order and how can we forget the specialty of Italian cuisine, cheese?

Contorni is often served alongside the secondi. It includes salads and vegetables. A lot of people make this mistake when ordering Italian meals, but you cannot order the salad with pasta or risotto. This is something that can offend Italians. Primi is supposed to be enjoyed on its own. Secondi, however, allows you to have something on the side.

Formaggi, or the cheese course is enjoyed after secondi. It can replace the dessert course or be enjoyed before dessert. It includes a variety of cheese served in a cart or board. Italians have several special kinds of cheese that can be enjoyed as it is, as well and this course allows you to get familiar with the tastes and textures of different cheeses. If you are a cheese lover, there is no way you can afford to miss this course.

Fusion Foods That Are Marketed as “Italian”

When we say America has its own version of Italian, we mean it. There are several dishes and eating practices that are marketed as 100% Italian but have nothing to do with Italy.

For instance, have you ever tried meatball spaghetti? Well, ask an Italian about it and they would have no clue what you’re talking about. There is no dish known as meatball spaghetti that is served in Italy.

Don’t even get us started on pizza!

As aforementioned, Italian food is made from fresh ingredients, don’t ever expect them to serve you a bottled dressing. In fact, don’t expect anything fancy as you are used to. Italian salads have quality olive oil and vinegar as dressing. The concept of salad dressings is not Italian.

Have you tried chicken carbonara? Well, it does not exist in Italy and it is NOT Italian.

The list of foods that have nothing to do with Italy but still are marketed as Italian is pretty long. And to save yourself from those “Italian foods” we highly recommend researching and exploring authentic Italian restaurants near you.

Rules for Eating Like a True Italian

As we said, you cannot and should not order Italian food as and however you like, there are certain rules that need to be followed if you wish to eat like a true Italian.

Cappuccino Is for Breakfast

Coffee is either enjoyed first thing in the morning or after a meal. Milk-based coffees are for breakfast and even if an Italian restaurant in NYC agrees to serve it to you, just know that is not something you can do in Italy and no true Italian would do that anywhere in the world.

If you need a kick of caffeine for the rest of your day, you can have an espresso after your meal, that is normal.

Garlic Bread on Side? But Why?

A lot of restaurants around the world serve garlic bread or slices of toasted bread alongside pasta. Well, that is not something Italians do. Pasta is served as a completely separate dish and you are not supposed to order or expect anything on its side. That is how a true Italian enjoys pasta, on its own.

Wine or Water for the Table

Wine and water are the only beverage options that go well with Italian cuisine. You can have liquor prior to your meal. But once your meal is served it’s either wine or water. Please refrain from asking for soft drinks or sodas for adults. That isn’t something that Italians do and there is a reason behind it. as much as they love their food, Italians love their wine. They like to enjoy their food and the only thing that is going to compliment the taste of the food is either wine or nothing at all.

Final Word

It is often said to go with your heart and eat anything you feel like, but when it comes to authentically experiencing a culture or cuisine, we firmly believe respecting the rules and going as per the norms is important. These rules are made specifically to enhance your experience. For someone who likes Italian food and would love to have a little trip to Italy without actually traveling, our restaurant is always open to welcome you. Experience the authenticity of Italian cuisine with us and we promise you wouldn’t get disappointed.