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Etiquette with meals.

Sydney, Australia
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Etiquette with meals.

Hi all,

My sister in law & I will be in Rome for a week in June (hubby is going on to France ahead of us) & I was wondering about the etiquette of ordering meals while in Rome. We are not big eaters & I wanted to know if it would be okay to sometimes just order an entree & dessert, with no main. Is that done in Rome?

Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

Sydney, Australia
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1. Re: Etiquette with meals.

Most restaurants will have the menu divided into sections: "Antipasti" (nibbles before the meal), "Primi" (starters), "Pasta", "Pizze" (if served), "Secondi" (main dishes), "Contorni" (vegetable dishes to have with Secondi), and "Dolce" (sweets). You order what you feel like having.

New York City, New...
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2. Re: Etiquette with meals.

It depends on the restaurant. I have never heard of a place insisting that you order every course, but you asked about etiquette and it would certainly be frowned upon in a busy upscale restaurant where there is an expectation you will eat full meals. The further down the ladder you go in terms of the type of establishment, the more acceptable it would be. Also, sharing is fairly common for some courses (it even has a name-"uno per due"). It is perfectly acceptable to order one pasta as a primo in this fashion, and I suppose you could even do this with the secondi. Bear in mind that, unless otherwise stated, you should not expect anything to accompany the protein if you don't order a contorni (which often is split as well).

Passo Corese, Italy
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3. Re: Etiquette with meals.

You can order whatever you want. Very often the Italians themselves will order just two courses, so there's nothing to worry about...

Edited: 06 May 2013, 07:58
Sydney, Australia
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385 posts
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4. Re: Etiquette with meals.

Thanks for all those replies. I do understand how the menu is set out, I just worried that they may expect us to order more.

I'm glad we'll be able to order only 2 courses. Usually, when I've gone with hubby to Rome or Paris, we'll have entree & main, but then I'm too full to order the beautiful desserts, lol! I also can't resist the gorgeous bread, so I think that fills me up as well. My sister in law really does eat like a bird though!

Thanks again!

Chicago, Illinois
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5. Re: Etiquette with meals.

why do you care what they 'expect'? some restaurants have a two plate requirement -- you are meeting that by ordering a primo and a dessert.

Le Marche, Italy
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for Rome, Marche
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6. Re: Etiquette with meals.

My husband and I often order two primi (first courses) and one secondo (meat course) plus one contorno (vegetable side). Sometimes, instead of two primi, we order one antipasto and one primo. We find that we can't manage to eat more than that. I've never been in a restaurant where this was not possible, although we rarely eat in upscale expensive restaurants.

New York City, New...
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7. Re: Etiquette with meals.

jane, re caring what they expect...

the question was what the etiquette is. Since etiquette is about expectations for social behavior (rather than any legal requirement), that's what I answered. Some people care, some people view it as a form of respect and some people ignore it. Just as I would tell someone they would be expected not to wear beach wear to most Michilin starred restaurants, I would tell them that they would be expected to have a full meal. If they don't want to, so be it. I don't get the impression the OP doesn't care.

Sydney, Australia
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8. Re: Etiquette with meals.

Thank you again to everyone.. And nyplaymaker, you have explained my reasons very well. Different etiquette & culture is found everywhere, isn't this part of the reason we travel?

Le Marche, Italy
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9. Re: Etiquette with meals.

I understand the need for etiquette, but ordering food is essentially a business transaction, not social intercourse. I do believe many Americans let themselves be cowed by the expectations of headwaiters and sommeliers. Of course their expectations are in line with what will induce you to spend more.

I don't think a dining experience where you feel constrained to order more than you can reasonably eat is a fine dining experience, no matter how many stars the place may have. A restaurant with real class would be happy to serve you a baked apple, if that's what you wanted.

New York City, New...
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10. Re: Etiquette with meals.

Sorry, bclenci, but I have to disagree. It is not reasonable to go to a fine dining establishment for a snack, on the grounds that it is a business transaction. It is not fair to the establishment, that expects a certain revenue from each of its tables, and it is not fair to others who might want to partake of the restaurant on its own terms but couldn't get a reservation because someone else decided to show contempt for the place. If one is not hungry, I don't think one should choose a place where a large meal would be expected, any more than one should go to a place specializing in bistecca alla fiorentina and expect them to serve it to you well done, because it;s a "business transaction" or go to a place that serves meat and meat-infused dishes and expect that they will accommodate your desire for a vegetarian dinner. I don't think this has anything to do with being American, or with being "cowed." I also don't think you should go to Prada and expect them to sell you a pair of shoe laces. Whether I am at home or abroad, I would not go to a restaurant of a certain level and order differently than the standard of the establishment. I would not expect to be refused service if I did, but I would not be comfortable, and I like being comfortable where I eat.