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How to eat pizza? & More Italian Dining Etiquette

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#1 camdan

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Posted 08 November 2008 - 03:59 PM

Is it considered rude in Italy to consume pizza with the hands? Should a knife and fork be used? I got into a debate about this last night; me advocating the use of hands and my dining partner insisting that cutlery is the way forward. Opinions?

#2 tsquare

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Posted 08 November 2008 - 08:20 PM

Is it considered rude in Italy to consume pizza with the hands? Should a knife and fork be used? I got into a debate about this last night; me advocating the use of hands and my dining partner insisting that cutlery is the way forward. Opinions?

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When a single size pie is served on a plate whole with a knife and fork, pretty obvious. When it is handed to you by the slice on a piece of paper...again, pretty clear. When it is a large pie, brought to the table and cut with pizza shears into slices or squares, I'd say, look around and see what the locals are doing.

#3 hathor

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 04:09 AM

Let common sense prevail. Some pizzas are too messy to pick up and eat, like a pizza covered in rucola, so a fork and knife make it easier.
Some pizzas taste better folded and eaten out of hand, like a gorgonzola and salami picante.
Sometimes I start with a fork and knife and then use my hands. Sometimes a hand is quicker if you are snitching a piece from your partner.
There are no hard and fast "rules" for pizza eating, other than to eat and enjoy. :wub:

#4 piazzola

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Posted 09 November 2008 - 04:59 AM

I think there are as many opinions of eating pizza with or without cuttlery as there are Italians in Italy besides pizza has not been eaten exclusively in Italy in the last hundred years of so it does not matter or even relevant how Italians consider eating pizza really.

#5 Maureen B. Fant

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 10:48 AM

Is it considered rude in Italy to consume pizza with the hands? Should a knife and fork be used? I got into a debate about this last night; me advocating the use of hands and my dining partner insisting that cutlery is the way forward. Opinions?

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By pizza of course you mean round pizza served at a table set with cutlery (as opposed to pizza al taglio and other obvious finger foods). The rule is definitely knife and fork, but it is not a rule like "don't cut your spaghetti," which is inviolable. It's more like make a show of knowing the correct thing, then do what you like. The pizzeria is not the place where people are checking your manners. The drier, crisper crusts are slow going with a knife and fork, and you needn't think twice about picking up a neat wedge and eating it directly.
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#6 divina

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 01:45 PM

Maureen- When is it correct to do the Napolitano folding to eat???

#7 prasantrin

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 02:52 PM

The rule is definitely knife and fork, but it is not a rule like "don't cut your spaghetti," which is inviolable.

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I saw someone do that recently. Before eating, she cut her spaghetti up into maybe 1-inch pieces. I had never seen it before, except when parents do it for their very small children, but the diner was an adult in her late 40s/early 50s. I was a little taken aback, but at the same time, strangely awed by her.

Why is it so bad? And if a non-Italian did that in Italy, what would people think?

#8 tupac17616

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Posted 11 November 2008 - 06:38 PM

The rule is definitely knife and fork, but it is not a rule like "don't cut your spaghetti," which is inviolable.

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I saw someone do that recently. Before eating, she cut her spaghetti up into maybe 1-inch pieces. I had never seen it before, except when parents do it for their very small children, but the diner was an adult in her late 40s/early 50s. I was a little taken aback, but at the same time, strangely awed by her.

Why is it so bad? And if a non-Italian did that in Italy, what would people think?

"socially deficient" or "maleducato" depending on what language they speak, maybe :raz:

#9 prasantrin

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 05:46 AM

"socially deficient" or "maleducato" depending on what language they speak, maybe  :raz:

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Must

not

laugh

:laugh:

I'd better not comment any further on that one, but bringing it back to pizza, how do people in Italy feel about people who eat all the toppings off the pizza, then eat the crust (or don't eat the crust at all, or eat the crust but not the toppings)? I see people do that in Canada/the US more often than I'd care to, and I always thought it was kind of weird (the perfect proportion of crust, cheese, sauce, and other toppings in one bite is what pizza is all about, imo), but is it bad manners?

#10 Maureen B. Fant

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 07:22 AM

"socially deficient" or "maleducato" depending on what language they speak, maybe  :raz:

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I'd better not comment any further on that one, but bringing it back to pizza, how do people in Italy feel about people who eat all the toppings off the pizza, then eat the crust (or don't eat the crust at all, or eat the crust but not the toppings)? I see people do that in Canada/the US more often than I'd care to, and I always thought it was kind of weird (the perfect proportion of crust, cheese, sauce, and other toppings in one bite is what pizza is all about, imo), but is it bad manners?

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Sorry I haven't figured out the multiple quoting.

I have seen folded napoletana pizza only in Naples on the street, but my experience is limited. The pizza I've had in sit-down pizzerias in Naples wasn't really foldable.

What would people think of cutting up your spaghetti? I swear I overheard the following conversation sometime within the last year:

Italian friend no. 1: You can't imagine what I saw in a trattoria last night. Some German tourists cut up their spaghetti into little pieces.
Italian friend no. 2: Really? But how did they manage to eat it?

In general, cutting spaghetti with a knife is viewed in a very bad light. It is considered morally right and good manners to learn how Italians eat this most Italian of foods. You have to have a very hard head to want to cling to your wicked ways in the face of a judgment of moral turpitude plus rudeness. This topic actually came up yesterday. I jumped all over the (otherwise perfectly nice and, as it turned out, a good sport) husband of one of my cooking clients (or victims) when he attempted to (unsuspectingly) cut his spaghetti with the side of his fork. When I related the anecdote later to a friend who is Italian but grew up in NY, she said of course people should learn how to eat spaghetti and found people's reluctance rather sad. She attempted some analogies for when Italians visit the US and the tables were turned, but none were convincing.

And what would Italians think of picking off the topping and other eccentric behavior? Probably that the eater is (a) a spoiled brat, (b) a benighted North American, © a barbarian who, by definition, cannot appreciate the perfect harmony of a good pizza, (d) a true eccentric to be more pitied than reviled, (e) a wasteful American who is single-handedly responsible for consuming 75 percent of the earth's energy (this last is the one I get a lot at home whenever I leave a single hair of artichoke choke on my plate, much less leave an unnecessary lightbulb on :biggrin:).
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#11 ambra

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 10:32 AM

I guess I am lucky that in all my years, I don't think I've ever seen anyone cut their spaghetti up except for child consumption....I guess I live under a rock!!!

However, I have seen Americans in the US and in Italy use a soup spoon to twirl....which here in Italy, in my experience, is considered odd/wrong and obviously foreign.

#12 CaliPoutine

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 12:02 PM

I guess I am lucky that in all my years, I don't think I've ever seen anyone cut their spaghetti up except for child consumption....I guess I live under a rock!!!

However, I have seen Americans in the US and in Italy use a soup spoon to twirl....which here in Italy, in my experience, is considered odd/wrong and obviously foreign.

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I see the spoon trick in Canada ALL THE TIME. My spouse does it as does her family. I grew up in S. Florida and we NEVER used a spoon. I find the spoon trick really awkward.

#13 davythefatboy

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 08:02 PM

Over the years my wife and I have seen working class Italians in a few restaurants in Italy swirling their pasta on a spoon. My wife thinks once was in Spoleto (there was a room of fifty Italian army guys having a dinner in the next room, I didn't notice them using spoons). As a kid in NY I remember my father coming back from a trip to Italy and showing us that was how it was done. So in at least two Italian restaurants in the last fifty years, members of my family have seen locals do the spoon thing with spaghetti.

In terms of Pizza, the oddest thing I saw was in a restaurant outside Torino - the guy at the next table ate the entire crust of his pizza (neatly with a knife and fork) before he ate the rest of it. Just looked weird and unbalanced.

#14 piazzola

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Posted 12 November 2008 - 09:13 PM

I have seen many people leaving the crust behind but in some countries it is considered an offence not to eat the crust.

Myself don't like cheesey pizza and most shops here top up pizzas with shredded cheese to the rims and just do not leave a breathing hole to the poor sauce in the middle. I do not like paper thin pizza either after all pizza is not Indian chapatis.
Back in my old country pizza if served on the table with cuttlery then plates are also placed but most people use their hands as instruments.
As far as tallarine or other pastas never seen anyone eating with the help of spoons but always use crusty bread pieces.

#15 Man

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 11:01 AM

Is it considered rude in Italy to consume pizza with the hands? Should a knife and fork be used? I got into a debate about this last night; me advocating the use of hands and my dining partner insisting that cutlery is the way forward. Opinions?

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In the experience of this particular Italian, there are no hard and fast rules, moral, social or otherwise, in respect of pizza eating. I have seen it all, and no usage strikes me as strange. I myself sometimes use my hands and sometimes I don't. The perception of rudeness is more asociated with the general attitude (slurping, technique of insertion in the mouth) than with the use of cutlery.

Not the same for spaghetti...There we do have definite mental barriers. If you cut your spaghetti you can only prove yourself to belong to one of two categories (or both): child or foreigner. You'll be looked upon with pity and astonishement, as somebody who cannot master a basic skill.

Spoon for spaghetti is an interesting thing. Most people do not use it, but using it does not attract the same reaction as cutting the pasta. Much depends on the skill and agility with which you do it, which again allows a prompt classification into Italian or foreigner.

#16 tino27

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 11:45 AM

I come from a long line of not spaghetti cutters, but spaghetti breakers -- breaking the dried pasta up before cooking it. Now before you condemn me as a heathen, know that I have always supported keeping my spaghetti whole. It's the rest of my family who needs the epicurean help.

I'm actually a little surprised by the twirling on the spoon issue. But I've been to a number of Italian restaurants (all here in the U.S.) where they specifically give you a spoon without having to ask for it. If not for twirling long pasta, what other purpose would the spoon serve? Maybe smacking the hand of the dinner companion who tries to take the last piece of garlic bread?

:blink:
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#17 prasantrin

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 02:42 PM

I see the spoon with pasta thing a lot in the US, Canada, and also Japan. I tend not to use it unless one or more of the following applies:

1) There's too much sauce to be able to fork, twirl, and eat even a little pasta without getting a little splatter all over the place. This happens quite often in the US and Canada (what's up with the over-saucing?)

2) The pasta is kind of soupy. This happens more often in Japan, where they serve a lot of Japanese-influenced pasta sauces where the sauce is almost like a broth.

3) I'm wearing white or some other light colour, and I'm afraid of splatter. I'm clumsy. It happens.

#18 tino27

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 04:34 PM

1)  There's too much sauce to be able to fork, twirl, and eat even a little pasta without getting a little splatter all over the place.  This happens quite often in the US and Canada (what's up with the over-saucing?)

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I completely agree with you on that one. Over-saucing pasta and over-dressing salads are two relatively minor pet peeves.

Not only is over-saucing at epidemic (yes, I did say epidemic) proportions, but how many times does your pasta come already swimming in a pool of the cooking water because they didn't drain the pasta well enough? Before you can even begin to eat the pasta you have to use your fork and twirling spoon to hold the pasta on the plate while you tilt it so that the water underneath can be drained to a separate dish.

Just get the lasagna and be done with it. :biggrin:
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#19 prasantrin

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 05:00 PM

Burning question...

How do Italians feel about using bread to mop up remaining pasta sauce?

It was discussed a little in the French table manners topic, and I'm wondering if Italians have similar ideas.

#20 Kent Wang

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 09:52 PM

Please explain the twirling in greater detail. I only twirl a little bit, maybe one revolution. The long noodles that I can't fit in my mouth I bite off -- is that a faux pas? This is the Chinese style.

#21 prasantrin

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Posted 14 November 2008 - 11:34 PM

Please explain the twirling in greater detail. I only twirl a little bit, maybe one revolution. The long noodles that I can't fit in my mouth I bite off -- is that a faux pas? This is the Chinese style.

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I twirl a little bit of pasta until it's all wound up on my fork. A little hanging off (like an inch or two) is OK, but not too much, 'cause it all has to end up in my mouth (another reason I don't twirl too much pasta onto the fork). Too much splattering otherwise.

ETA, Miss Manners even has an opinion about spoons and pasta!

Dear Miss Manners,
Your answer concerning how to properly eat mussels and pasta prompts me to ask this: is it acceptable to twirl one's pasta against the bowl of a spoon? I would hate to think I have been offending the cognoscenti all these years.

Gentle Reader,
Properly speaking, pasta is twirled on the fork against the bottom of the plate, not against a spoon. But if the people to whom you refer really know manners, Miss Manners assures you that they would have been too polite -- or too intent on their own pasta -- to notice.


Edited by prasantrin, 15 November 2008 - 12:08 AM.


#22 divina

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Posted 15 November 2008 - 11:01 AM

Burning question...

How do Italians feel about using bread to mop up remaining pasta sauce?

It was discussed a little in the French table manners topic, and I'm wondering if Italians have similar ideas.

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I was once reprimanded at the home of a wealthy lady where I was invited to a lunch, for her "worker's"- my husband was her cab driver, her pastry chef was also there. nothing too formal.

I was not a big eater, and instead of eating all the pasta, dared to scoop some of the fabulous wild boar ragu onto a piece of bread.

she told my husband later to inform me that it was not "correct"


When eating at home or with friends, it is called the scarpetta, little shoe.
Quess I wasn't family!

#23 divina

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Posted 15 November 2008 - 11:02 AM

As for Pizza , there is an art of folding and eating pizza slices I learned in Naples.
But more of a street food sort of way of eating.

Both Rome and Florence have the pizza al taglio, sold in slices, that tends to be more of a bready base and eaten without solverware.

#24 Man

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 07:42 AM

Burning question...

How do Italians feel about using bread to mop up remaining pasta sauce?

It was discussed a little in the French table manners topic, and I'm wondering if Italians have similar ideas.

View Post


'La scarpetta' is one of the great pleasures in life! It's not really good manners, but I have started doing it even in high end restaurant (discreetely and with the bread on the fork rather than in my hand) when the dish deserves it. No chef ever complained...As Divina recounts, probably the only occasion when you cannot do it is when you are invited by a host who is as stern as she is wealthy...

#25 kerriar

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 09:41 AM

Going back to the pizza eating question (which is where this started), I have a real existential question that goes to the heart of personal values.

What is the correct drink with a pizza?

Late in life, some long term residents of Northern Italy are telling me it has to be beer and that drinking red wine is an affectation.

Can this be true?

#26 tupac17616

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 11:45 PM

Burning question...

How do Italians feel about using bread to mop up remaining pasta sauce?

It was discussed a little in the French table manners topic, and I'm wondering if Italians have similar ideas.

View Post


'La scarpetta' is one of the great pleasures in life! It's not really good manners, but I have started doing it even in high end restaurant (discreetely and with the bread on the fork rather than in my hand) when the dish deserves it. No chef ever complained...

Faccio la scarpetta dalla nascita. I do it in high end restaurants, in low end restaurants, in my home, and in the homes of others. No one has ever complained, and certainly not the chefs. On the contrary, it's been a good way to make friends with many of them. :biggrin:

#27 tupac17616

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Posted 17 November 2008 - 11:51 PM

Going back to the pizza eating question (which is where this started), I have a real existential question that goes to the heart of personal values.

What is the correct drink with a pizza?

Late in life, some long term residents of Northern Italy are telling me it has to be beer and that drinking red wine is an affectation.

Can this be true?

Many lively debates on this subject in various Italian fora. Looking forward to hearing what our Italian eG reps have to say. :raz:

#28 SWISS_CHEF

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 08:13 AM

After three years in Piemonte and countless evenings in pizzarias, I hold the following to be true:
1. If you are standing at a bar, you can eat pizza with your hands.
2. If you are sitting, use a knife and fork.
3. If you do order wine with pizza it is usually by the carafe and not the bottle, unless you want to show off.
4. Beer is perfectly acceptable and somewhat vogue at the moment (but I resist this because there are more winemakers in Italy than beer brewers and I think we should support the winemakers because their market is shrinking)
5. Bottled water is ALWAYS on the table.
6. For pizza I never tip more than 1 euro for the whole table.

Edited by SWISS_CHEF, 18 November 2008 - 08:20 AM.


#29 hathor

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 10:49 AM

After three years in Piemonte and countless evenings in pizzarias, I hold the following to be true:
1. If you are standing at a bar, you can eat pizza with your hands.
2. If you are sitting, use a knife and fork.
3. If you do order wine with pizza it is usually by the carafe and not the bottle, unless you want to show off.
4. Beer is perfectly acceptable and somewhat vogue at the moment (but I resist this because there are more winemakers in Italy than beer brewers and I think we should support the winemakers because their market is shrinking)
5. Bottled water is ALWAYS on the table.
6. For pizza I never tip more than 1 euro for the whole table.

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OH....you Piedmontese are like soooo uptown!
Here in Umbria:
1) You can't get pizza at a bar. :hmmm: At some places you can get pizza for lunch, but that's a recent thing and only for tourists. It just feels wrong. Pizza by the slice is an affront to nature and only for those people who have a fear of commitment.
2) Knives and forks are good, they are particularly useful to ward off the hand of your neighbor who is trying to steal a bit.
3) The carafe wine at our preferred pizza place is so bad that Jeff actually poured it down my leg to get rid of it. It was summer, he didn't mean it, I dried quickly. We've recently learned that Franco keeps a stash of Shhhrahh behind the counter. That's phonetic for Syrah. If you don't put the SHHHH in Syrah, Franco doesn't give you his better wine.
4) Beer is for the guys in matching track suits. Very in vogue in our neck of the woods.
5) Bottled water is always on the table. Oh, thanks god we agree on something. :laugh:
6) If the waitress is pretty, our friend Bruce makes a point of handing it to her personally.

Clearly I need to get out more often. :laugh: :laugh:

#30 ambra

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Posted 18 November 2008 - 11:25 AM

Here in Tuscany (or even Milano):

1. Never seen any objections to hand held pizza unless it's a sloppy super cheesy or limp pizza. But that's just common sense. And I've seen people eat pizza both ways. In fact, we eat pizza both ways.

2. Most people I know drink beer with pizza. But I've seen plenty of people with carafes on the table.

3. Here in Siena, we have a couple of quickie pizza shops and you can find people-locals and tourists alike- walking down the street with pizza in hand.

With pizza, I just don't think there are any rules that are strictly followed like with other dishes. Maybe there used to be or maybe in certain pizza-centric regions, but not anywhere I've ever been.





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