A typical Italian dinner starts late...

but that doesn't mean it won't last long!

An Italian dinner is not only about satisfying hunger, but it usually revolves around socializing and conversing with friends and family.

In most cases, dinner starts late.

After the sun has set and the stars are out, you'll find the typical family beginning to gather around the table.

Now, there is a difference between dining in and dining out in Italian culture.

For example, my family does very casual dinners. Light and refreshing food is served, because the heaviest meal of the day (pranzo..or lunch) seems to keep you full forever!

Tomato salad or a fried egg, and lots of bread and salumi make up the casual family cena.

Dinner out is sometimes quite a different story.

Antipasti are almost always considered mandatory as well as il primo (first dish, usually pasta), il secondo (usually a meat or fish) and a contorno (a side dish - typically veggies of some kind), plus there's always bread and table wine of course!

Dessert is optional, and if it is ordered there is no doubt an espresso along side it.

Italian Dinner at Restaurants

piazza navona

Dinners at restaurants or trattorias can last for 2 or 3 hours, meaning that each table is usually seated only once throughout the evening.

It's very relaxing and not at all rushed like most American style restaurants in the USA.

But if this expanded menu is not suitable to the palate, there is also the casual dining experience that a lot of young people and families prefer and that's the PIZZA experience!

Most sit-down pizzarias in Italy serve what we would call "personal-pan" pizzas.

Each person gets whatever toppings they want, and then they get their own pie!

They are not as large as a normal pizza here would be, but are probably equivalent to about 3 American style slices. And they are delicious!

And don't be fooled... Just because pizza is easy and casual, doesn't mean the Italians eat it quickly. They may choose to sit at their table long after their pizza has disappeared off their plate....

And no night out is really complete without the staple gelato! (At least it wasn't for me!)

But whether they are dining in, or eating out... Italians relish their food and their time together... and an Italian dinner is no exception to that rule!

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