Italian restaurants are known for their delicious food and generally welcoming, family-friendly atmosphere. Often, dining in an Italian restaurant is a little more relaxed than dining in a French restaurant or even an upscale American steakhouse. Still, there are certain etiquette guidelines you should adhere to when dining at a traditional Italian eatery.
Don't Cut Your Pasta
Spaghetti, linguine, and other long noodles are very popular in Italian cuisine. If you order a dish served with one of these pastas, do not reach for your knife to cut the pasta! This is considered very poor manners. Instead, wind the pasta around your fork, perhaps using your spoon to help wind it tightly. With a little practice, you will learn how many strands of pasta you can fit on your fork without generating too large of a bite.
Don't Eat Salad Before Your Entree
Americans often eat salad before the rest of the meal, but Italian etiquette calls for the opposite approach. If you order a salad, expect it to be served after the entree. If the two dishes are brought to the table at the same time, eat your entree before diving into the salad. The Italians consider eating salad after dinner to be better for digestion.
Wait for the Host to Eat
Who is the person in your party who initiated the dinner plans or invited everyone else along? That person is considered the host, and in an Italian restaurant, they are expected to take the first bites of food. Everyone else at the table should wait patiently for them to take the first bite. Follow this protocol with each course, from the soup to the dessert.
Don't Drink Coffee With Your Meal
Americans may think nothing of sipping coffee as they dine, but this would be odd to Italians. Coffee is meant to be enjoyed for breakfast only. If the restaurant you're in serves coffee, it's acceptable to enjoy a cup after dinner with dessert—but not alongside your spaghetti or chicken Parmesan.
Keep Your Hands on the Table
In Italian restaurants, it's considered proper to keep your hands visible and on the table. Don't hold them in your lap; this is perceived as if you are hiding something. Do not rest your elbows on the table, either—this is on etiquette rule that transfers well between cultures.
By following these etiquette tips, you'll seem more polite at an Italian restaurant.