It is very typical to read the menu of a restaurant in a foreign country and get completely lost at the first page.
In the Italian menu you will find the dishes divided in two main categories: Primi Piatti and Secondi Piatti.
These two terms should be always present, keep them in mind ! Let’s look at the all list:
We would call these starters in English. This is something to eat before your meal. It can be some prosciutto and mozzarella, or some fried vegetables. It is usually a small dish, that requires little time to get served. It will help waiting for the primo piatto that usually takes at least 15 minutes to be cooked and served.
Il piatto del giorno
At the beginning of the menu you can find Il piatto del giorno, usually written on a temporary paper that could be handwritten. This is the suggestion for the day, it is something that the restaurant suggests based on the fresh ingredients that were available at the local market in the morning. If this is something that you like we strongly suggest to order il piatto del giorno when available. You will eat something that is for sure available in a short time and cooked with fresh products. Some restaurants also have some dishes that are served only in particular days of the week.
It is also very usual to find indications like Giovedi Gnocchi (Thursday Gnocchi), Venerdi pesce (Friday fish) or Domenica Lasagna (Sunday Lasagna). These are dishes that the restaurant will prepare only one day per week, following Italian popular traditional culture.
Here we are talking about pasta, or rice. Anything that is spaghetti, gnocchi, lasagna … it is considered a Primo Piatto, literally first dish. Italians always eat pasta in their meals 😉
Foto di Ezio Zigliani - Tavolata in Cantina
Your main course. It can be either of meat of fish. Secondo piatto can be served with a contorno, that is a side dish of salad or other kind of vegetable. In some places il secondo piatto is served with some vegetables by default, but it depends on the place. It is better to ask if you don’t want to eat just a plain steak. To the people coming from Iran we also suggest to order the meat well cooked, in Italian ben cotta, because the Italian like to eat the steak not completely cooked, with the inner part very bloody, and we know that this is not really in the direction of the Iranian taste.
Dolci o Dessert and Coffee
In a good Italian restaurant we suggest to finish your meal with a good Dessert, in Italian Dolce. Our favourite is Tiramisù but make sure it is home made and not coming out from some supermarket box.
For Coffee do not order it in the restaurant. Walk out and step into the first Italian BAR you see, they have far better coffee than restaurants !