The thought that there could be people who hardly like Italian food seems almost incredulous. Everyone loves good pasta, bruschetta, lasagna, or even the ever common pizza (which has very gradually received the local touch of every place that serves it). But the interesting part that really is worth a good look, is the customs and traditions that accompany it. The history of Italian cuisine is an interesting one, but as of now, let's just understand their food customs and traditions, because that's equally interesting, or perhaps even more fascinating.
Customs and Traditions
Some of the following may seem unusual to people who haven't grown up the Italian life, but don't give up reading, because this sure is interesting.
✱ Pasta, the most commonly known Italian food to most of us, holds a special place and significance in the life of Italians. While for the most of us, penne and farfalle are different shapes of the same thing, and taste the same, for Italians it is a little more than that. For one, different regions produce different shapes, and there is also the rule of the recipes. Every shape of pasta has a recipe to go with it. It would be almost wrong to "mix and match".
✱ Pasta is taken quite seriously by them. It can never be over cooked, and must always be al dente. It also has its individual place when having a meal. Pasta is always treated as an individual dish, and never a side or an accompaniment.
✱ Quite the contrary to the above mentioned, we treat a salad as an entrée of a sort, but not the Italians. As per tradition, a salad is always treated as a side to the main course only. In all probability, asking for it to be served before your meal, will go unheard.
✱ A typical salad may also come across as the least imaginative to some, since it most often is nothing more than greens dressed with olive oil, vinegar, lemon, and salt. That is what the idea of a salad dressing always is.
✱ Lunch is a sacred meal for the Italians. It can last for up to 2 hours too. Italians believe in enjoying and relishing their meal, and for them lunch is the most important of all meals. Also, lunch must be had at one specific hour. While in a different country, if an Italian has missed his meal at the time when he would normally eat, lunch is skipped altogether because it is past lunch time.
✱ Their menu is quite possibly one of the most extensive, also quite possibly unbeatable. A typical Italian menu would (ideally should) consist of Antipasto, Primo, Secondo, Contorni, Dolce, Frutta e formaggi and a digestivo.
✱ There is no concept such as using ketchup as a sauce of any kind, least of all as sauce for pasta. If you want to see tomato sauce as part of this cuisine, it has to be that made from fresh tomatoes only, because that is what is acceptable.
✱ Clean dishes are very extensively used when eating too. Now, I know that may sound funny, but here's what I mean... Mixing food is not and never has been patronized by them. A different plate is used for serving every dish, because they are always served separately.
✱ If you are looking to experience the goodness of some fine cappuccino, there are only two times of the day that it can be done. Either in the morning during breakfast, or maybe during an afternoon break. Having coffee at all odd hours of the day is not acceptable to them. They also would do not approve of the concept of a "coffee to go".
✱ On the etiquette front, a waiter will practically never get you your bill unless asked for it. Doesn't matter if you've long finished your meal. You don't ask for your bill, you don't get one.
If you go through the customs in detail, you would quite possibly find a lot more. Some being more region specific too. These were just the tip of the iceberg, and some of the more common ones that should be known by all. Now that you know how food is treated by them, don't ever feel like you need to rush through an Italian meal. Take your time, because if there's one thing they aren't big fans of, it is "fast food"!