Each country has its own unique food and dining culture, and Italy is no exception. If you’re visiting Italy from the states, there’s a number of important things to keep in mind when dining out. Food and coffee culture in Italy is sacred, and while they do understand that tourists won’t be familiar with all of it, it’s best to know a thing or two. Here are some tips to keep in mind.
Coperto (Service Charge)
At most sit-down restaurants, you will have “coperto” added to your bill. This is an extra service charge, which will vary depending on how much you ordered, the size of your party, and the restaurant. It’s usually under four euros per person. You don’t need to tip as long as there’s coperto, but it is nice to leave a couple of euros as a tip anyway. In some highly touristy spots, there’s no coperto, in which case you should tip.
Make a Reservation
Depending on where you are and what time of year (rather, if it’s tourist season or not), it may be hard to find a good restaurant with seating just by walking around. Restaurants are usually open for lunch from 12 to three, and then dinner from eight to midnight…and at dinnertime, they fill up fast. It’s always a good idea to make a reservation for where you want to go, just to be safe. If you’re at a hotel, ask the clerk to help you call up and ask in Italian.
Italian coffee culture warrants its own article, but the two things to know about it that pertain to restaurants are when to order coffee and what to order. That is, coffee is never drunk before or with a meal; Italians only drink coffee after they’ve finished eating, and they only drink espresso. Cappuccinos are reserved for breakfast, and you might get some judgmental looks if you order one after 11 am.