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How to eat pizza? & More Italian Dining Etiquette


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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.

'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:

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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:

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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 (log)
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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.

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:

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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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Eating customs, like everything else, are becoming homogenized in our WWW - Global world. There are fewer and fewer "correct" ways to dine on specific foods.

Pizza eating in Italy, or anywhere for that matter is solely dependent on how it is served. Certainly as has been said here common sense will usually dictate the preferred method of consumption. Using a knife and fork to cut wedges and then eat by hand is quite common with pizza served whole. Dainty, polite or formal eating (which rarely involves pizza anyway) of a pizza should be dissected and eaten with tools like the rest of a meal would be. A good rule I suppose is if eating with ones hands seems impolite don't do it. Slices (in any shape) are served on paper with no tools so that is pretty obvious. Drinking wine, beer or even coca cola is all accepted behavior in a pizza place. I prefer wine at a sitdown pizza place and beer or coke if grabbing a slice. In USA it is always a coke. One thing for sure is pizza is an extremely informal meal and can be approached as such. No hard fast rules other than be polite and neat.

There are many peculiarities in dining:

In Paris falafel are eaten with a fork directly out of the pita like the pita was more of a plate than a bread, not consumed like a pita sandwich as is the norm in USA. Also most of the world serves french fries INSIDE the pita not as a side dish as the USA does.

In NYC a slice of pizza is folded (ala our Neapolitan Italian America heritage) and eaten. Non native New Yorkers can be easily spotted by the way they eat a slice.

When to serve and eat a salad is always changing and is different all over the globe.

Mustard on a hamburger , mayonnaise on french fries, salsa on eggs, waffles with fried chicken and many more things that were once unique to a region or a specific ethnic group have all been absorbed into the norm.

As to cutting spaghetti or breaking it that is just silly. Pasta is made in so many shapes and sizes just choose one that fits rather than alter the one being used. The spoon thing I see mostly in areas that serve a lot of seafood pastas like Venice and Liguria and only used when a seafood pasta is served. I have never been offered a spoon in Rome. Sopping up the gravy (sauce) has never once been frowned on in any of many thousands of meals I have consumed in Italy. Of course I adjust my behavior based on company and dinning room. It is most likely started as a peasant / working class thing to do but so what. Why let good food go to waste? In Rome nearly every plate of food is wiped clean by local diners.

David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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  • 3 weeks later...

Another question...when served cappuccino with foam art, what do you do? Do you mix the foam into the espresso, thus destroying the art? Or do you try to drink your cappuccino without destroying the "artwork"?

And what if you want to...shhhhh...add sugar?

I'm going to my favourite Italian restaurant for lunch tomorrow, and you bet I'm going to use my bread to mop up any leftover sauce! My mother would be so mortified! :shock:

On a related note, if you are eating Neapolitan-style pizza, and you are given a little cruet of chile-infused olive oil, do you pour the oil all over the pizza? Or put some on a plate and sort of dip (or slap) your slice of pizza into the oil? Do they actually serve chile-infused olive oil with pizza in Naples? Or anywhere else in Italy?

Edited by prasantrin (log)
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Another question...when served cappuccino with foam art, what do you do?  Do you mix the foam into the espresso, thus destroying the art?  Or do you try to drink your cappuccino without destroying the "artwork"?

You could ask the same question for a nicely presented dish. Do you destroy the art? Of course you do: art in food is designed to be temporary. It's that fleeting, mood-setting visual enjoyment that prepares you for the core sensory experience. In other words, just go ahead, sugar and mix!

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The question about chili-oil on pizza seems to be very regional. In the South of France it is ubiquitous same as in Liguria. I have had it in Rome, but rarely and never al taglio. In Naples I only ate pizza a couple of places and do not remember the oil being offered. Whenever I am offered chili oil for pizza I pour it directly onto my pizza never on the plate or ask for a separate plate.

BTW in Portugal they serve this same type of oil (called piri - piri because of the piri piri chili used in it) for Frango and FF which is IMHO the worlds best chicken and potato dish ever. But this is the Italy board so I will say no more

David West

A.K.A. The Mushroom Man

Founder of http://finepalatefoods.com/

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