Even to those who have never been to Italy, the uniqueness of Italian meals is well known. With many courses spread out over the period of several hours, these meals are designed to give you time to spend with family and enjoy delicious cuisine that is brimming with Italian culture. Should you decide you would like to eat like the Italians do, the meal structure is as follows.
The Order of Italian Meals
1. Some Pre-Meal Alcohol
Known as “Aperitivo,” the Italians like to enjoy a little bit of alcohol (both wine and liquors) that is designed to get the palate ready for the Italian food recipe. This is meant to both warm the stomach and loosen the family before the meal.
Following the drink is the small appetizer. Unlike most restaurant appetizers, this is often something very small, such as cheese, peppers, or slices of meat. It is not meant to be too filling, but still provide ample flavor.
3. First Course
The first meal is then served. Though it is designed to complement whatever Italian food recipe is going to be used for the second course, the first course is where traditional Italian foods like pasta and gnocchi are served. Serving sizes are smaller than in the US (in order to preserve room for the next course) but it is still not minute, and is a tasty part of the meal.
4. Second Course
This is considered the main course. It consists most often of large chunks of meat that have been properly seasoned according to a traditional Italian food recipe. Meat may be chicken, fish, veal or beef depending on regional preferences. The main course is also served with a salad, known as the Contorno. In some areas this is considered a separate meal, but it is still served alongside the main cuisine.
After eating, many families start with a small “dessert” of fruit or cheese, again chosen to complement the Italian food recipe. The type of cheese or fruit often varies by region and is simply meant to start the closing part of the meal.
Once the fruit has been completed, the Italians will often serve a more traditional dessert, such as a large cake for the entire family to enjoy.
7. Coffee and Liquor
Italian meals often end with enjoying some type of coffee. The coffee presents a strong flavor, and is generally a major part of the eating tradition. After the coffee, however, many Italian families end with a dessert liquor or wine in order to reduce the effects of caffeine and end the night peacefully.
Enjoying Your Italian Meal
The traditional Italian meal is most often enjoyed on holidays and special events, and is spread out over a period of several hours. Each Italian food recipe is carefully selected, and the purpose of the entire evening is to enjoy the time you spend with family. Even if you are not of Italian descent, enjoying a meal in the Italian style is a great way to eat some delicious food and bond with your family.