Is It Rude To Leave Food On Your Plate In Italy? A Guide To Italian Food Etiquette

Is It Rude To Leave Food On Your Plate In Italy A Guide To Italian Food Etiquette

If you have been to Italy (or are planning to), you must have been curious about their food etiquette. More importantly, what if you are full after a meal and can’t finish your plate? Is it rude to leave food on your plate in Italy?

In the specifics of this article, we shall look into Italian food and table etiquette and understand if it is rude or offensive leave food on your plate in Italy.

Is It Rude To Leave Food On Your Plate In Italy?

According to Italian etiquette, you should leave a very tiny amount of food (or no food) on your plate. Leaving food on the plate is considered rude in Italy. Italy has, in fact, developed a culture that places a high value on food and eating.

This is because Italy has endured many periods of food scarcity and poverty and therefore value food a lot. 

“la Scarpetta” is the Italian phrase for the practice of using bread to wipe your dish clean after a meal. As a cultural standard, the majority of Italians observe this practice. 

Is It Offensive To The Chef/Host To Finish All The Food On Your Plate In Italy?

Food plate with no food

Credit: Photo by Richard Bell on Unsplash 

If you leave a tiny amount of food on your plate after each course, this is a good indication that you are easily satisfied. However, if you finish all the food on your plate in Italy, it is not considered rude to the chef or the host.

Moreover, if someone cleans their plate after a meal at a gathering, the host will be pleased. 

It indicates that the guests liked the meal and that the host performed admirably. Similarly, requesting additional portions of the same meal would make the host happy.

What Is La Scarpetta?

Create the Scarpetta is the literal translation of “fare la Scarpetta,” which means “make the Scarpetta.” This expression has a special place in the hearts of anybody who has ever savored an excellent pasta dish covered with sauce. 

This expression, “create the small shoe,” refers to the small piece of bread used to sop up the excess sauce on your plate.

“Fare la Scarpetta” refers to the act of cutting a slice of bread from a loaf. It is then pinched in between your right thumb and index finger. This is followed by dragging the slice around a nearly empty plate that still contains sauce to savor every last morsel. 

This action is typically performed with a plate containing spaghetti. After a sufficient amount of sauce has been smeared on the slice of bread, it is lifted to the mouth and swallowed. This traditional method of completing a meal is prevalent throughout Italy.

Where Does La Scarpetta Come From?

As with many Italian expressions, this one is based on a visual metaphor. When sweeping bread over a plate, one’s finger becomes the leg that pushes the bread, which then becomes the shoe. 

In other terms, the expression refers to the process of sweeping bread over a plate. Not only is it a crucial component of an Italian supper, but it is also considered a method for extending the duration of time during which one can enjoy the meal.

It is an involuntary remark since, in Italian culture, there is no greater compliment for one’s cuisine than a completely emptied plate. It gives the impression that the consumer cherished each component of the dinner. 

This includes the sauce that remained on the dish after it had been used and deemed too valuable to discard. It is one of the numerous forms of nonverbal communication we often employ, and it expresses our gratitude for the food and the person who prepared it.

A Guide To Consuming Italian Cuisine – Dos and Don’ts

Even though eating in Italy is an earnest endeavor, there are some things you should and should not do to have the most pleasing dining experience possible and make the most of your time there.

Do’s Of Italian Cuisine

Here are the do’s of Italian cuisine you should know about:

Consume A Heavy Meal For Lunch

Heavy Italian Lunch

Credit: Photo by Nerfee Mirandilla on Unsplash 

In Italy, where breakfast often consists of a cup of coffee and a cornetto or other pastry, the adage that breakfast is an important meal of the day is false. Italian breakfast consists of a cup of coffee and some type of pastry. 

The majority of noteworthy culinary events that occur in Italy occur during lunchtime.

In contrast to the standard practice of rushing through lunch, Italians are known for taking their time at midday meals. During lunch, they consume multiple dishes, sip wine, and finish with a dessert.

The Meal Should Begin With A Portion Of Pasta

While some grocery stores stock the product on the shelves, others dedicate entire back rooms to storing dry pasta in various packaging options. Nonnas are the persons who make pasta by hand. Nonna is the Italian term meaning grandma. 

Creating pasta is not as simple as it may appear. It requires a personal touch passed down from generation to generation of pasta makers.

Pasta dishes are in the menu section labeled “primi” when ordering a meal at an Italian restaurant. Primi is the Italian term for “first courses.” 

It refers to the portion of the meal during which Italians typically have smaller amounts of pasta unless they are in the mood for risotto or soup.

You are welcome to place an order for pasta primo, followed by a second (second course). If, on the other hand, you discover that you are not in the least bit hungry, you need not feel awkward about skipping the secondo. 

You can skip the second course or share any courses with a dining companion if you want. 

Toasting Requires Maintaining Eye Contact With The Recipient.

When someone cheers or raises a glass in Germany and Italy, it is considered impolite not to look them in the eyes. This is done because it is believed to be an indication of treachery. 

It is stated that the Machiavellian Renaissance was the origin of the tradition that a toast should never be made with water. At that time, poisoning was a very significant risk among the aristocracy.

As a result, they had to choose their drinking companions very carefully to decrease their own risk of poisoning.

Skipping Dessert Is Fine.

That is a very amusing bit of irony, wouldn’t you say? Although a few stand out for the richness of their flavor, the vast majority of Italy’s sweets are not very remarkable in terms of their structure. 

There are, however, a few exceptions. Remember, gelato isn’t a dessert. Since this is an Italian pastime, the dinner is typically served in the late afternoon or early evening. 

It is general knowledge that Italians are most proud of their main courses, such as pasta. Therefore, it is recommended that you fill your stomach with these scrumptious dishes rather than desserts.

Don’ts Of Italian Cuisine

Here are the don’ts of Italian food and cuisine

Do Not Put Cheese Everywhere

Do not generously sprinkle parmesan throughout. Depending on the sauce you pick, grated cheese may or may not be a welcome addition to your pasta or risotto.

In Italy, Parmigiano cheese is never used on pizzas, salads, or any meal, including fish or shellfish. This prohibition applies to all cheese-containing dishes. 

If the wait staff does not offer or deliver you Parmigiano, it is most likely because the food you ordered does not require its use. This is the regular operating routine.

Do Not Look For Butter

If there is one thing to remember when dining in an Italian restaurant, it is that you should not request butter. In general, butter is not provided at Italian restaurants. 

You shouldn’t eat bread with butter while in Italy. Instead, enjoy the bread without butter because it tastes better.

Do Not Use A Spoon When Eating Spaghetti.

Never use a spoon when eating pasta, since the Italians do not. Adults should learn how to twirl spaghetti using the conventional approach. Kids can use the dish’s edges as guidelines while spinning the noodles on a fork. 

This strategy is utilized in the majority of Italian eateries. This method is appropriate for youngsters, but adults should avoid using spoons whenever possible.

In A Normal Italian Tavern, Do Not Sit Down.

You should avoid sitting in a cafe or bar if your feet aren’t hurting. This is because the price of whatever you are eating doubles, triples, or even increases further as soon as you take a seat.

Therefore, you will likely notice Italians standing while they consume coffee and cornetti. Because there is a limit on the amount charged for coffee in Rome, you will never be compelled to pay more for a standing coffee than is deemed appropriate. This holds regardless of location.

In almost all instances, the table will contain a column labeled “banco” and another labeled “tavolo.” If you order while standing, you will be charged the “banco” cost, but if you order while seated, you will be charged the “tavolo” fee. 

You are welcome to take a seat if you believe it will be advantageous, but you should remember, to some extent, what those charges were. You must double-check the receipt to confirm that they are true.

What Is The Tipping Culture In Italian Restaurants?

Tipping a waiter

Credit: Photo by Crew on Unsplash 

It is crucial to remember that the culture in Italy is very different. In addition to this, tipping practices vary considerably between cultures. Not only is learning acclimated to it a necessary part of the experience, but it also demonstrates respect for the residents.

Numerous service industry workers in Italy are paid in cash, indicating they are free from paying income taxes. If they are on the payroll, they are eligible for paid vacations (ranging from six to more than twelve weeks a year) and paid sick leave. In addition, they have a national system of health care.

If the ‘servizio’ has already been loaded to your account, there is no need to leave any further payment. You may sit back and rest knowing that, even though most Italians won’t even have this ‘servizio’ on their bill and won’t tip, you are still tipping far more than the average Italian.

If the only thing added to your bill is ‘pane e coperto,’ or if nothing has been added to your bill at all, and the service you have received has been exceptional, then you should probably leave a tip. 

How Does The Tipping Culture Differ In Italy?

Depending on your location in Italy, the custom of tipping may differ substantially. In your home country, it may be customary to leave a hefty tip of 15 to 20 percent, but in Italy, this level of gratuity is regarded as highly generous. 

In Italy, it is considered etiquette to round up the bill or leave a gratuity that is a few euros less than the total. The vast majority of restaurants that require diners to sit down and dine include a service charge or table fee.

This fee covers the cost of your place setting, tablecloth, and silverware, so you do not need to leave an extravagant tip. Although it is always appreciated when people are generous, it is not typical for people to leave excessive gratuities.

What Are The Food Rules In Italy?

Italy is home to some of the most luscious delicacies found worldwide. Here are some food rules in Italy you must know about:

Peel Fruits And Vegetables Before Consumption

Apples, pears, and occasionally peaches are among the fruits and vegetables peeled in Italy. Carrots, cucumbers, and potatoes are also peeled, and even the Italians do not understand why this practice is prevalent. 

Although peelers are available in Italy, most residents still prefer to use traditional knives for meal preparation. If you consume unpeeled produce in their presence, they may just grab it out of your hand.

They then peel it in a single perfect spiral and cut it into uniform wedges with the speed and skill of a sushi chef. If you consume peeled produce in front of them, they will be able to peel it in a perfect spiral with ease. 

The Principal Courses Ff The Meal Will Not Be Served With Coffee

Coffee is not intended to be taken with the main course of a meal but rather with fruit or dessert after a meal. Additionally, coffee and milk beverages, such as cappuccinos and lattes, have historically been consumed for breakfast. 

Following the dinner, either a cup of espresso or, at most, an espresso macchiato is served. This happens both after lunch and dinner. 

Wine And Water Are The Only Two Beverages That Italians Consume When Dining

The only time you are permitted to violate this rule and order a carbonated drink or a beer are while ordering a pizza. Tea should never be ordered with steak, and cappuccino should never be requested with spaghetti. Nobody will refuse to give you what you want, but the expression of dissatisfaction on the face of your waiter or waitress will be practically intolerable.

Salad Dressing

Olive oil and vinegar are the only two ingredients used in traditional Italian cuisine. Thus you would not find any kind of ranch or “Italian” salad dressing on a classic Italian salad. On the lettuce, there is never grated parmesan cheese.

Consume Each Bite Slowly And With Appreciation

It is not unusual for Italians to spend an hour preparing a meal and savoring every bite even more. When dining out, service is typically prolonged; there are numerous course options.

The waiter will rarely inform you that they “require your table.” Ensure that large blocks of time are reserved in your calendar for the sole purpose of eating. The quality of Italian cuisine is so high that it merits the “waste” of a few hours.

In any case, eating Italian food while seated at a table is substantially more enjoyable than doing so while carrying a sandwich about town.

In Italy, Bread Is Typically Not Served Alongside Spaghetti

Even when offered together for lunch or dinner, pasta and bread are often consumed at different times. This is because pasta and bread require different cooking times. In traditional Italian homes, oil and vinegar or butter were not typically provided with bread.

 Instead, it was served with merely salt and pepper. Bread is typically consumed with cured meat and cheese, but it can also serve as an appetizer or starter on its own.

Don’t Combine Your Courses

When it comes to Italian cuisine, the flavor of each component is of the utmost significance. Some sauces can only be used with certain varieties of pasta. The availability of many ingredients depends on the season and the kitchen’s location. 

When dining with Italians, you will likely be served multiple dishes, and you must savor each one as if it were its dinner. It is not customary to serve numerous meal varieties on the same dish (pasta, salad, meat, etc.). Instead, your salad or vegetable course, pasta course, and meat course will be served to you in separate amounts.

Understanding Italian Table Manners While Dine-In

Depending on the event, such as a formal dinner party, an Italian table setting can range from informal and rustic to more formal and conventional. Italians always adhere to laws and customs regarding how people should behave while dining, regardless of location or circumstances.

Table Setting

After setting the table, a knife will be placed to the right of the plate, and a fork will be placed to the left. Throughout the meal, the utensils should be kept on the side of the plate corresponding to where they were placed. This should be completed to prevent any confusion. 

The dessert cutlery, which consists of a fork and a spoon, is located at the very apex of the plate. Do not rush the procedure; you should not start eating until all guests have been served and seated. 

You should always eat with your hands visible and open and with a napkin on your lap. In contrast, you must never eat with your hands or place your elbows on the table while eating.

The Usage Of A Knife And Fork

When using both a knife and a fork, the fork is always held with the left hand and the knife with the right. This is because the left hand is better suited than the right for grasping objects. 

The fork put on the right side of the plate in Italian culture is not transferred to the left side of the plate between bites. Following the conclusion of the meal, the knife and fork are adjusted such that they are parallel to the right side of the serving dish.

The prongs of the fork must point in a counterclockwise orientation. The wait staff will recognize that you are finished eating and may remove your plate if you place both utensils on the plate at the same moment for a sufficient amount of time.

This is done to signal that you have stopped eating. However, if you set your cutlery on either side of the plate after eating, this indicates that you are still eating.

Wait For Everyone To Sit Comfortably Before You Start Eating

Italian culture considers it appropriate etiquette to wait until everyone is seated and/or served before commencing to eat. This is because eating a meal with others is highly valued in Italian culture. 

Italians place a high emphasis on social interaction and view sharing a meal as one of the most significant ways to achieve this. When engaging in a typical Italian lunch, you should always adhere to the established rules of politeness. 

This includes allowing the host to start eating first and always keeping your elbows off the table. Instead of cutting lengthy spaghetti into smaller pieces, use the edge of the pasta dish to swirl the noodles onto your fork. This will facilitate the consumption of pasta. 

Always use a knife and fork to avoid harming them when picking up cheese or fruit bits. Keep your hands where everyone can see them on the table surface.

 Do Not Make Noises While Eating

Make an effort to avoid creating distracting or loud noises while you are eating, particularly soup and other liquid meals. In other words, you shouldn’t consume it all at once! If the food on your plate is hot, you should wait a few minutes before eating it. This will prevent you from disturbing the person sitting next to you with loud noises. 

It is impolite to communicate while one has something in their mouth. Please maintain a closed mouth while consuming food.

Dining Etiquette For Seating

The center seat on each side of the table is considered the most prestigious. The guest deemed to be the most important always sits to the host’s immediate right (women to the right of the host and men to the right of the hostess). 

If a couple is hosting visitors in their home, each pair member will take turns sitting at opposite ends of the table.

Remove Glasses

The empty cups should not be removed from the table until all guests have completed drinking. Touching the real glass when replenishing water or wine glasses at a table is considered impolite.

If you cannot reach the glass, you should gently request that the guest bring it closer so you can drink from it. If you are replenishing a glass of beer or a cocktail for a guest, remove the previously used glass. Then, offer the guest a brand-new, unopened beverage in its stead.

Summing Up!

We hope we’ve covered everything about food etiquette in Italy. We also hope that on your upcoming visit there, you do not have to keep contemplating what to do and what not, at a fancy and very Italian dinner table.

If you have any questions or feedback, do let us know in the comments below!

Swati Jaiswal

Swati Jaiswal is a dedicated traveler and an even dedicated individual who specializes in travel, digital marketing, & health and fitness niches. Passport stamps and coffee stains are her badges of honor.

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