Dining in Italy


Dining in Italy

 Most restaurants have a cover charge.  This will be listed somewhere in the menu as pane e coperto (bread and cover).  It will be higher for outdoor tables, especially if there is a view, and will be charged whether or not you touch the bread.  Don’t quibble over these charges.  The tip or servizio is also listed in the menu, and is usually 15%.  Waiters are paid very well in Italy and it is a respected profession.  If servizio is listed, do not feel that you need to leave any extra money as a tip.  If the service was exceptional you may leave some change. 


Restaurant service in Italy is different than that which you find at home.  No forced smiles and no “Hi! My name is Tom, and I’ll be your waiter…” Waiters may hang outside of the restaurant to entice you to eat at their establishment.  Once you are seated you are expected to order on their schedule.  If they come to the table to take your order and you are not ready, it may be a long time before they come back.  Other waiters might simply turn their back on you for about 60 seconds and then turn around again to take your order.  You may get the feeling that you are being hurried, or that the waiter is rude, but the truth is that they are helping run a business.  Feel free to order your first course and drinks, and then decide on the rest later.  Whatever the case, keep in mind that you are visiting a foreign country, and as the saying goes, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”


Tips for Dining in Italy 

  • Italians are not big beer drinkers.  They prefer red wine.  There are a few popular Italian beers that generally taste like a light beer in the States.  If you plan to have a beer, order birreria al spina or beer on tap.

  • Most Italians will order bottled mineral water with a meal.  It is pure and cold, and we highly recommend it.  Order Acqua Minerale - naturale for non carbonated water, or gassata for bubbling water.   

  • Many smaller cafes and restaurants will have a stand up bar where you can order food or drinks.  If you order here you will not pay the cover charge and the prices may even be lower than if you were to sit and dine.  

  • One of my favorite things about eating in Italy is that when you sit down and pay that servizio, the table is yours as long as you want it.  Where else can you get a front row seat to history and never be asked to leave?  You won’t get the bill until you ask for it.  Take your time, force yourself to talk, relax, and take in the show all around you.  When you do want to finally leave, ask for Il conto (the bill).  

  • Vegetarians visiting Italy might like to learn the following phrases.  

Sono vegetariano. - I am vegetarian.

Non mangiamo I don’t eat…

Ne carne meat

Ne pescefish

Ne polli poultry

Uova e formaggio OKeggs and cheese OK

Please also visit our page about Meals in Italy.


Travels with Friends: Learn more about other European destinations and tips for traveling within Europe. www.TravelsWithFriends.com

Private Guides: See Europe and learn about its history with your own private guide.  www.PrivateGuidesInEurope.com 


Top of Page

Our Free Newsletter

Europe travel news sent to you 15 times a year.  

Join Today

Best of Europe!

Top sights, hotel reviews, travel tips and more.

Best of Europe

Private Shore Trips

Private Tours in France, Greece, Italy and Spain.

Private Shore Trips

Small Group Vacations

Join one of our small group Europe tours. 

Small Group Tours

Other Europe Tours

Tours and day trips to help you explore Europe.

Europe Tours

Your Private Guide

Hire a professional from Private Guides in Europe.

Private Guides in Europe

Custom Trip Planning

Let us help personalize your European itinerary.

Travel Planning

Our Philosophy

Our thoughts on how to best travel in Europe.

Our Philosophy

Home and Contact

For more information or to send us an email.

Home Page     Contact

Car Rentals, Flights, Hotels, Rail Passes