Food is an important part of Italian life. Italians usually take their time when eating lunch and dinner. Italian meals consist of many courses: first there's an antipasto (appetizers, or "before the meal"), then il primo (first plate), il secondo (second plate), contorni (vegetable side dish), and then i dolci (the dessert). The antipasto usually consists of cold cuts, the primo consists of a pasta or rice dish, or soup, the secondo consists of a meat or fish dish, the contorni consists of a vegetable dish or salad. Italians tend to eat lunch later than Americans do, and dinner is after 8pm. The meal is usually accompanied by a good glass of wine. Breakfast in Italy is not considered an important meal, and if anything, Italians usually just eat fette biscotte (similar to a sweet-cracker) with jam, or a pastry with espresso. And since Italians take the time to enjoy their food, it is almost impossible to order coffee on the go. On that note, you will never see Italians eating while they are walking on the street. If people are in a rush, they will eat standing up.
Student recommendations from Fall 2009. Let us know if this list should change!
Tips are merit-based in Italy, not standard like in the U.S. You are not obligated to tip, but remember, your server probably knows you're American, and knows that you would tip in your own country. It never hurts to leave a few extra euro for good service.
If you order meat, it may come out fairly rare. If you ask for ‘well-done,’ the chances are that you will get meat far less than well-done by American standards.
Realize that there is very little fried food in a Tuscan diet. If you see calamari on a menu without the word fritti, understand that it may come out sautéed or without any breading.
Butter is not normally served with Tuscan bread (which is generally salt free and kind of dry), use the olive oil on the table or wait until your meal comes to dip it in the sauce on your plate.