Everyone knows and would agree that Italy is a food paradise. But there are some food rules that you should be aware of just to avoid embarrassing yourself while travelling in the country. After all, Italians take their food very seriously.
Disclaimer: I would like to specify that I’m no food expert or a cook. The list below is simply based on my own experience after more than two years of living in Italy. Hence, the list is not in any way proven scientifically.
1. Latte means milk
Many of you might already know that “latte” means milk in Italian language. However, with Starbucks in every corner in Malaysia, many are so used to ordering a cup of “latte” at the coffee chain restaurant and expect a cup of coffee with milk. However in Italy, ordering a latte would mean only a cup of milk. So if you want your regular coffee, ordering just a latte wouldn’t do!
2. There is no Starbucks Coffee in Italy
Well Starbucks Coffee might be famous back in Malaysia (or Asia as a whole), but not here in Europe, especially Italy where the people take pride in their own coffee. Although this means you will not have any barista writing your name on your coffee cup, but I can assure you that the Italians are not in loss for not having Starbucks Coffee here.
3. There is no such drinks as Mocha or YinYong (or kopi cham)
And now, this is something serious, at least to me, a big fan of yinyong. As I mentioned before, Italians take pride in their coffee, so any unwanted “substance” (except milk and sugar) in the coffee is unacceptable. Meaning to say, do not go into a bar here and order a Mocha (coffee with chocolate) or my favourite, yinyong (coffee mixed with tea). However for those yinyong lovers who are craving for this wonderful drink during a trip to Sicily, do contact me and I shall offer you a cup of yinyong, on the house.
4. Pizza is served as a whole
Well, I know pizza is served as a whole, but what I mean here is a whole pizza for one person. Unlike our fast food “pizzeria” in Malaysia where you can choose from several sizes, the pizza in Italy comes in only one size. And do not order a pizza and start sharing with two or three of your friends if you do not want the locals to look at you like you are from Mars. It is like ordering a small bowl of prawn noodles to be shared among three to four people. But do not worry, the whole pizza here in Italy is really not that big. I do not eat a lot usually (I take up only two slices of the regular pizza in Pizza Hut), but I’m able to finish ¾ of the pizza here in Italy. So, for normal eaters out there, a full pizza is just nice.
5. No chicken meat or pineapple as pizza topping
Forget about the Malaysian styled pizza when you are in Italy. If you are looking for Hawaiian or Pepperoni Pizza, drop that thought. Also, you won’t find chicken meat as topping here (do let me know if you had chicken meat as topping in Italy before, I want to try too). Although you can’t have the pineapple, chicken meat and the pepperoni topping, the local salame, fresh cherry tomatoes, Italian sausages, local cheese and mushrooms will not disappoint. In fact, I now know what pizza is really about. Brace yourself and have the real authentic Italian pizza.
6. Do not attempt to order a cappuccino or caffe latte after lunch
I know cappuccino is a must-have drink when you are in Italy, but do keep that for the breakies. The Italians will find it disgusting (trust me, even the thought is able to make them feel disgusted) to have cappuccino after lunch. The only “acceptable” drink after lunch is the Italian coffee – espresso. So, if you think to be cool by ordering a cup of cappuccino during or after lunch time in Italy (since this is what actors do in movies when they are in Italy), my advice is – don’t.
7. Americano is almost non-existant
What I mean by “almost” is that, you can still get the Americano (which is water with espresso), but do not expect a big cup of it. Like I mentioned before, any additional substance in coffee is not acceptable. So, instead a big cup of Americano, you will get about half the cup of your regular grande Starbucks Americano coffee where the taste is definitely stronger. And just an additional tip, “grande” means “big” in Italian.
8. Do not have meat and seafood served together
We Malaysians love to have both meat and seafood on the same table, which signifies a prosperous and good meal. But if you are in Italy, do not order both meat and fish at the same time. If you are a kampong person like me and are not aware about this rule which is well known in Western countries, then I should warn you that the Italians are very firm about this. Both meat and seafood can’t be served together so that diners can truly enjoy the taste of the food. And that is why siew mai (a Chinese dim sum with prawn and pork) is a disgusting food to my Italian boyfriend.
9. Do not add cheese in your seafood
I know Italy is famous for its cheese and I always think that their cheese is like the equivalent of soy sauce in Malaysia – it’s almost as if everything goes well with soy sauce in Malaysia. But you should not add any kind of cheese in your seafood dishes if you do not want the locals to laugh at you behind your back. This no-cheese-on-seafood rule is mainly because the cheese will overpower the taste of the seafood, which will “spoil” the beautiful seafood dishes.
10. Keep the ikan bilis for lunch and never for breakfast
We know ikan bilis (anchovies) are good for your pan mee and nasi lemak. But, just a quick reminder, do not attempt to eat or order any fish-related food for your breakfast. Breakfast in Italy is usually sweet (Nutella lovers, you will love the breakies here) and not heavy like those in Malaysia. And just for your knowledge, Italy does have ikan bilis, but they are larger in size.
11. No salty breakies
In general, a salty breakfast is not common in Italy – which means it is almost impossible to get the regular “Western breakfast” or better known as the continental breakfast at the regular bars or cafes in Italy. If you are lucky, you might be able to find a hotel or a bed and breakfasts that do serve the common continental breakfast, though it is rare.