I have been living in Italy for more than a year now and I must admit that when you are living abroad for a while you start noticing that some of the place’s habits slowly grow on you. I find myself from now and then picking some ways that at the beginning I found strange or even made me laugh. I guess it is only normal, even if you fight these ways, sooner or later you will have to accept them.
I made a list of food related habits that are a sign that you have been living in Italy for too long, but these same habits can be applied as guidelines if you are visiting/staying in Italy and don’t want to be spotted right away as an outsider.
You know when you have been living in Italy for too long when…
1. The day doesn’t really start until you have your espresso/cappuccino
For 99% of the Italians the day only starts after they have the first espresso. Without this first espresso people wouldn’t manage to get to the bar to have their second espresso of the day(I guess). It is only normal that even non-italians get these habits over the time, for me it isn’t the case. At least yet… Anyway, just know that this habit alone couldn’t mean you have been in Italy for too long, almost everyone around the world needs their coffee.
2. Cappuccino only exist before lunch time
The cappuccino in Italy is usually part of breakfast, and so it is served only before lunch time. If you have it after lunch it is a big no no, and I learned it the hard way. One afternoon after work I decided to head to a bar with a friend, when we arrived I asked for a cappuccino, like I was used to do back in Portugal. The barista repeatidly asked me “Espresso?” as I repeatidly answered “CA-PPU-CCI-NOO”. In the end he did serve me the cappuccino, but I secretly lost the apetite with all the frowning looks people gave me, including my fellow expatriate friend. I should have just ordered the socially acceptable Aperol Spritz and chips… After all it was aperitivo time. As cappuccino is done with fat milk to create the froth, it is considered that after meals it will make the digestion harder.
3. Adding water to espresso is sacrilege
I can already start hearing that Yeah Yeah Yeahs song “Sacrilege” while I write this point. Never ever ask for an espresso in a bar and add water to it. If you like your “americano” just ask for it and they will add the water in the espresso for you, but anyway no one should ask for it while in Italy.
4. No coffee to go for me. This is no Starbucks…
In Italy the coffee, curiously opposing to the way meals are taken, is taken as a short shot of caffeine at the counter. You don’t ever see people sitting, slowly sipping their espresso here. Slow food, fast coffee. But at the same time, it’s surprising how places in the world with a fast food culture have a slow coffee policy, just think about the Starbucks concept. How about that…?
5. Breakfast sweet Breakfast
Italians always have a sweet breakfast.The espresso/cappuccino/occasional fruit juice with a sweet cornetto (italian word for croissant) or cake is the typical breakfast. If taken home, breakfast consists in espresso with some biscuits. The closest the Italian breakfast is going to get from salty is a brunch.
6. Drink only water or wine during meals
During meal time in Italy the usual drinks are water and wine. Sodas or beer are accepted and welcome only if you are having pizza or a burger. Fruit juices (fresh or not) are usually taken during breakfast. I must admit that I miss the natural iced tea, the fresh fruit juices and the lemonades I was used to have during meals in Portugal.
7. Seeing people eating spaghetti with the help of a knife start to disturb you
The other day I went to a trattoria and there was a couple of tourists having dinner on the next table that caught my attention. Usually I don’t care what people are doing in the restaurant or even how they are eating, but that day the guy was eating spaghetti with fork and knife and he was cutting it. Eek…The moment I saw that, I swear that I heard Hitchcock’s Psycho screech in my head. This was the first time that I noticed how this simple erroneous action disturbed me (and I’m not Italian). Please people, do work on your fork twirling skills and eat spaghetti only with it, at least while you are in Italy.
8. Too much spices and sauces mean bad ingredient quality
People believe that the better the ingredient is, the less you should add to it, this way you can really appreciate the quality of that product. So if you add too much sauces or spices to your ingredients, it can only mean one thing… and that is that the quality of the ingredients you’re using is not good enough and you need to mask it..at least this is what most Italians would think.
This said, put your ketchup aside, because here ketchup is not welcome, it is not a sauce and you are ruining everything with it.
9. Pasta is a dish by itself not a side dish
Pasta is a dish by itself in Italy, you don’t go around asking for a “Primo” and a “Secondo” to eat them at the same time. Either you want pasta or you want your meat, or you want both but each at it time. I didn’t mention before but not only that tourist cut the spaghetti at the trattoria, he also ordered a steak and ate the two things at the same time (the steak with spaghetti). Oh no you didn’t…(Eek..Hitchcock sounds again).
Ahhh…And no matter what Disney sold to you in “The Lady and the Tramp” scene with the Italian spaghetti with meatballs, guess what… in Italy there is no spaghetti with meatballs dish. You have been wrong your whole life. Anyway…I can still appreciate my pasta with fish or meat, but at the Italian restaurant or with Italians..of course.
10. You pull your food critic atitude everytime you hit the restaurant/trattoria
There is a food critic inside every Italian. If you have spent some time in Italy or you are an Italian you know what I mean… the “you cannot do Amatriciana with onions..!” this, “my grandmother never used parmiggiano in the cacio pepe” that, “I will never set foot on this restaurant again…”. All in all, I kind of appreciate the critic spirit here. People have their opinion, their ideas and they expect good food if they pay for it…otherwise they would be eating at their nonna’s place. Right?
Now tell me, are you living in Italy for too long? Or did you experience an interesting vacation food story? Please feel free to share here your funny food stories in Italy.