dinner in Italy

Dinner In Italy Like A Local: A Complete Guide

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Buonasera! Join me on a journey through one of Italy’s most cherished traditions – the evening dinner. This meal that brings together family and friends is so much more than sustenance; it’s a ritual celebrating the flavors of the land, and the art of enjoying life’s simple pleasures.

Together we’ll uncover quintessential Italian dining habits, from the aperitivo ritual to the number of courses, as well as regional dishes that make each dinner a tasty food tour. I’ll reveal some fascinating facts you may not know about our cuisine, etiquette, and traditions tied to this time of the day in Italy.

Get comfortable, set the table, and prepare to savor all the secrets of an authentic Italian dinner.


Italian dinner customs

Eating Like an Italian

Eating like an Italian isn’t merely about satisfying hunger. In Italy, dinner is a revered ritual, a way to celebrate flavors and bonds daily. It’s a time when families gather around the table, friends reunite with laughter echoing through trattorias, and the warmth of shared stories lingers in the air.

Italian dinner is rooted in the Italian concept of “La Dolce Vita,” the sweet life. It’s an embodiment of savoring every moment, cherishing connections, and finding joy in the simplest of pleasures – and what better way to do that than by sharing a sumptuous meal? 


Italian Dinner Traditions

To give you a real insight into the dining experiences within Italian households I am about to share 10 cherished Italian dinner traditions. Drawing from my Italian roots, I’ve had the privilege of residing in both traditional and modern households, allowing me to offer a comprehensive perspective on these culinary customs.

  1. Dinner with the family: Dinner is not only an important meal but also a time for family and friends to gather and connect.
  1. Honoring Mealtimes: Italians stick to mealtimes, emphasizing the importance of a consistent dining schedule.
  1. Roles Evolve: In more traditional settings, it is the woman who prepares dinner and serves it to the family. Modern couples usually share the kitchen duties, but the enjoyment of the meal remains a shared experience.
  1. Raise a Glass: Wine is a common companion to dinner, especially for older generations.
  1. The Importance of Slow Dining: Meals are enjoyed slowly, with conversations flowing, while the TV plays a background role.
  1. Pride in cooking delicious meals: Italians put effort into cooking daily meals using simple, seasonal, high-quality ingredients.
  1. Quality Ingredients: Fresh bread, extra virgin olive oil, good wine, and seasonal produce are fundamental to Italian dinner preparation.
  1. Pasta’s Presence: Pasta is a dinner table favorite, though not as omnipresent as you might think.
  1. Celebrating Special Moments: Special occasions bring elaborate multi-course dinners and post-meal drinks.
  1. Continuity in Conversation: Conversations continue during post-dinner clean-up, often handled by the woman of the house in traditional settings.



eating pizza with cutlery in Italy

Italian Dining Etiquette & Table Manners

Italian dining etiquette and table manners are deeply rooted in tradition and reflect the country’s rich cultural heritage. Here are some key aspects of Italian dining etiquette to keep in mind:

Table Setting and Seating: In formal settings, wait to be seated or follow the host’s lead. Napkins are typically placed on your lap, and it’s polite to keep your hands visible above the table.

Bread and Olive Oil: Bread is usually placed directly on the table, and you can use it to scoop up sauces or olive oil. However, it’s considered impolite to put olive oil directly on your bread – pour it on your plate instead.

Pasta and Fork Only: When eating pasta in informal settings you can use your fork to twirl it against the spoon, but never cut it with a knife. In more public and formal settings, you should only eat pasta with a fork.

Pizza Etiquette: Pizza in Italy is eaten with a fork and knife, especially in more formal situations. However, it’s acceptable to eat it by hand in casual settings, especially if it’s a pizza al taglio that is by the slice.

Espresso After Meals: If you would like to enjoy coffee after your meal, it’s best to ask for an espresso. Cappuccino and other milky coffee drinks are considered appropriate only for breakfast.

Engage in Conversation: Meals are a time for lively conversation, so engage with your fellow diners. Italians often talk about food, family, and current events.

Finishing Everything on Your Plate: It’s considered polite to finish everything on your plate, as it shows appreciation for the meal. Leaving food behind may be seen as wasteful.

Respecting Others: Don’t start eating until everyone has been served, especially in formal settings. Wait for the host to begin the meal.

Using Hands: While using utensils is common, it’s also acceptable to use your hands for certain foods like fruit and some appetizers.

By observing these dining etiquette guidelines, you can navigate Italian meals with confidence and show respect for the country’s culinary traditions.


dinner time in Italy is usually late

Dinner time in Italy

Dinner time in Italy follows a distinctive pattern, deviating from what many might consider typical, especially when compared to other European countries.

While in neighboring nations dinner tends to be enjoyed earlier in the evening, often around 6:00 PM or 7:00 PM, Italians embrace a more leisurely approach, with the evening meal often commencing around 8:00 PM or even as late as 9:00 PM.

This delayed dining schedule is a reflection of Italy’s unique cultural rhythm, where meals are savored, and the day’s gatherings extend into the night. The Italian eating routine celebrates a relaxed pace, allowing ample time for lively conversations and the shared delight of a thoughtfully prepared meal.

What time is Dinner in Italy? Is it that late?

The general rule is that the further you move towards Northern Italy the earlier they tend to dine, probably because of the influence of the bordering countries and the colder weather. Whereas, the further south you move the later the dinner time gets.

Personally, as a Sicilian, and therefore as someone living in Southern Italy, I can tell you that my daily family dinners rarely started before 8 p.m. The only exception would be if we had to go somewhere after dinner.

night time in Italy

Why do Italians eat dinner so late?

That’s probably the next question on your mind, so let me help you understand things better.

If you read my breakfast in Italy post, you might have noticed that Italians like to take their time in the morning, not everyone but the majority does. That implies a later start to the day and so for anyone working 8 hours, that means finishing work slightly later. 

Lunch breaks are also longer, with many going home to have lunch with the family – especially those working in retail, in more relaxed working environments or owning a business.

If you also take into consideration that going for drinks after work is a common practice, the late dinner time becomes more obvious.

Having said that, it’s good for you to know that many younger Italians are adopting different eating schedules, including earlier dinners.

PS: If you are used to early dinners, don’t worry, plenty of trattorias and osterias stay open most day, and other restaurants re-open at 7 pm. I suggest you reserve a table in advance if you don’t want eat very late, just in case the restaurant is popular and there’s a long line.



Cena in English: Grammar and Italian Dinner Vocabulary

Now that we’ve discussed the dinner specific food culture and habits in Italian, we must look at Language.

If you plan on dining in Italy or dining with an Italian in your home country, these Grammar nuggets and dinner phrases will come in handy.

Let’s start with how to say dinner in Italian. That’s “cena”, the Italian word for dinner.

Its origins are very clear, it comes from the Latin cena, which means the same.

This word, like the Italian for lunch, can turn into a verb by adding the particle – are.

Cena becomes cena-are, that is cenare, and that’s the infinitive verb, meaning to have dinner.

The conjugation of the verb in the present tense looks like this:

Io ceno – I have dinner

Tu ceni – You have dinner

Lui/lei cena – He/she has dinner

Noi ceniamo – We have dinner

Voi cenate – You (plural) have dinner

Essi/loro cenano – They have dinner

Italian late dinner

Examples of how to use the word “cena” and the verb “cenare”

Now, let’s look at some example sentences to make everything more clear.

Andiamo a cena fuori stasera? – Shall we dine out tonight?

Chi prepare la cena oggi? – Who’s in charge of dinner today?

Venite, la cena è pronta. – Please come, dinner is ready.

Oggi, vengono i nonni a cena. – Grandparents are coming for dinner today.

Spegni il cellulare mentre ceniamo. – Switch off your mobile while we have dinner.

Hai cenato? – Have you had dinner?

Si abbiamo cenato a casa di Filippo. – Yes, we had dinner at Filippo’s house.

Com’era la cena? – How was dinner?

Sai che cenando mi è venuto sonno? – Do you know that dinner made me sleepy?

Italian Dinner Words To Learn

Apricena – before dinner, sort of the aperitivo and antipasti time

Dopocena – after dinner

Tavola – table

Forchetta – fork

Coltello – knife

Cucchiaio – tablespoon

Cucchiaino – teaspoon

Tovaglia – table cloth

Tovagliolo – napkin

Vino – wine

Bicchiere – glass

Bottiglia – bottle

Bibita – soft drink

Acqua – water

Piatto – plate

Sedia – chair

Pentola – pot

Forno – oven

Cucina – kitchen

Fornelli – stove

Italian Dinner Food Names 

Pane – bread

Antipasti – antipasti

Olive – olives

Olio d’oliva – olive oil

Aceto balsamico – balsamic vinegar

Sale – salt

Pepe – pepper

Origano – oregano

Insalata – salad

Pasta – pasta

Carne – meat

Pesce – fish

Pollo – chicken

Patate – potatoes

Verdure – vegetables

Minestra – soup

Formaggio – cheese

Salumi – charcuterie

Frutta – fruit

Dolce – dessert

Liquore – liqueur

Digestivo – digestif

cooking spaghetti for dinner

Italian Dinner Phrases

Cena di famiglia. – family dinner in Italian

È ora di mangiare. – that’s how we say time to eat in Italy

Preparare la cena. – To prepare dinner

La cena e’ pronta. – Dinner is ready

Chi prepara la cena? – Who’s making dinner?

Cosa c’è per cena? – What’s for dinner?

Rimani a cena? – Will you stay for dinner?

Chi viene a cena? – Who’s coming for dinner?

A che ora si cena? – At what time is dinner?

Serve qualcosa per la cena? – Do you need anything for dinner?

Dai, si cena. – Come on, let’s have dinner.

Non far raffreddare la cena. – Don’t let your dinner get cold.

Complimenti, la cena era buonissima. – Well done, dinner was delicious.

Ti è piaciuta la cena? – Did you enjoy dinner?

Grazie della cena. – Thanks for dinner

Ti invito a cena. – I’d like to invite you to dinner.

Sei libera per cena? – Are you free for dinner?

Mi passi il pane? – Can you pass me the bread?

Mi passi il sale e il pepe? – Can you pass me the salt and pepper?

Mi passi l’insalata? – Can you pass me the salad?

Vorrei un altro pò di pasta. – I’d like some more pasta.

Che buona la carne. – The meat is so good.

Il pesce è ottimo. – The fish is exquisite.

Complimenti al cuoco. – Well done to the chef.


Italian Dinner Courses

In an Italian dinner, a sequence of thoughtfully designed courses awaits, each contributing its distinct charm to the gastronomic journey. The meal commences with antipasti, a collection of appetizers that tantalize the taste buds.

Next, the primo piatto showcases pasta, risotto, or hearty soups, while the secondo piatto introduces meat, poultry, or fish paired with a flavorful side, the contorno. Formaggi follows, featuring an array of cheeses, leading seamlessly to the sweet finale, dolce. This array of Italian dinner courses ensures a diverse and satisfying culinary experience.

Dinner courses in Italian are called “portate”, or “portata” in the singular. So the first course would translate to “la prima portata”, the second course to “la seconda portata”, etc.

I’ve already mentioned the name of all the courses above but I’m going to list them below with the respective English translation for your reference.

  1. Antipasti – Appetizers
  2. Primo Piatto – First Course
  3. Secondo Piatto – Second Course
  4. Contorno – Side Dish
  5. Formaggi – Cheese Course
  6. Frutta – Fruit
  7. Dolce – Dessert

You should be aware that while the full word for the first and second course is “primo piatto” and “secondo piatto”, Italians usually call them “primo” and “secondo”.


steak and salad for dinner in Italy

Typical Dinner in Italy

Earlier on in this article, I hinted at the fact that pasta is a food eaten at dinner, but not at the same frequency you might think. By that, I mean that many Italians eat pasta in the evening, but when you look at the majority, Italians prefer eating pasta for lunch and a main course and a side dish for dinner.

So, if you were to ask me: What do Italians eat for dinner, I would reply that while that depends on the region, the lifestyle dynamics, and the food preferences, most Italians generally eat a “secondo” and a “contorno” for dinner.

What is a Typical Italian Dinner

Before we look at all the different Italian dinner foods, I want to give you an idea of a typical Italian dinner, by sharing with you 6 very common ones.

  1. Pesce al cartoccio con insalata o verdure – Fish in parchment paper with salad or vegetables
  2. Bistecca con insalata o verdure – Steak with salad or vegetables
  3. Coniglio o pollo alla cacciatora – Rabbit or chicken hunter-style
  4. Polpette al sugo o in umido – Meatballs in tomato sauce or stewed
  5. Winter: Spezzatino – Winter stew
  6. Carne o pesce alla brace con contorno – Grilled meat or fish with side dish

Italian Dinner Dishes Enjoyed by the Locals

In this section, I will list other Italian dinner dishes that are enjoyed for dinner. To make it easier for you, I will be dividing them by season – Winter and Summer.

risotto is a typical Italian dinner

Winter Dinner Dishes in Italy

Here’s the local food enjoyed by Italians for dinner during the colder months.

Zuppa Toscana – Tuscan Soup

Minestrone – Minestrone soup

Pasta e fagioli – Pasta and beans is a traditional pasta soup

Pasta e lenticchie – Pasta and lentils is another pasta soup

Tortellini in brodo – Tortellini in a broth, especially loved around the holidays

Spezzatino di carne con polenta – Beef stew with polenta

Polenta con funghi – Polenta with mushrooms

Risotto ai funghi – Mushroom risotto

Risotto con piselli – Pea risotto

Risotto allo zafferano – Saffron risotto

Spaghetti con salsa di pomodoro – Spaghetti with tomato sauce

Spaghetti aglio olio – Aglio olio spaghetti

Carbonara – Carbonara pasta

Penne all’Arrabbiata – Arrabbiata pasta

Bucatini Amatriciana – Amatriciana pasta

Tortellini con la panna – Tortellini with white sauce

Braciole – Stuffed rolled beef slices

Cotolette – Breaded sliced of beef or chicken

Salmone al forno – Baked salmon

Apulian salad is a Summer side dish in Italy

Italian Dinner Food Most Enjoyed in the Summer

Cold salads, lots of vegetables, lighter pasta dishes and grilled and roasted protein are the top food enjoyed by Italians when the weather gets warm.

Caponata – A side dish made with peppers, eggplant, and a sweet and sour reduction

Parmigiana – layered eggplant and other ingredients

Verdure alla griglia marinate (melanzane alla griglia, zucchini alla griglia) – grilled vegetables like aubergines and zucchini

Peperoni arrostiti – roasted peppers

Insalata Caprese – Caprese salad

Insalata Siciliana – Sicilian salad (a tomato salad with onions, and often black olives)

Insalata di patate Pugliese – similar to the Sicilian salad but with potatoes, olives, and capers

Insalata di riso – Rice salad

Insalata di pasta al pesto – Pesto pasta salad

Cotolette – Breaded beef or chicken slices

Salsiccia arrostita – Italian sausages on the barbecue

Pesce arrostito – Grilled fish

Polpette alla griglia – Grilled patties

Polpette di verdure – Vegetable cakes/patties

Pollo alla griglia – Grilled chicken

Filetti di manzo al limone – Fillets of beef in a lemon sauce

Salmone al forno – Baked salmon

The same risotto & pasta dishes above apply for Summer too, while most grilled proteins and patties are also enjoyed in the colder months.

In Summer, it’s common, especially in Sicily, to enjoy a lighter dinner with side dishes like caponata, bread, cheeses, and different meat cuts. It’s like you are eating a large antipasto for dinner. This is usually done either when lunch is a big meal, or when it’s too late to cook dinner.

The 10 Most Eaten Italian Dinner Sides

Contorno is a very important part of an Italian dinner, whether it’s a complex one with many courses or a daily dinner at home with just one course. Especially when preparing simple meats and fish dishes, a delicious contorno is what brings the meal to life. So let’s look at a few Italian dinner dishes Italians love.

  1. Insalata con olio extra vergine d’oliva e balsamico (salad with EVOO and balsamic vinegar)
  2. Insalata di Rinforzo from Naples (a mix of boiled vegetables, olives, and pickles that’s especially loved around the holidays)
  3. Insalata di patate (potato salad, either served with olive oil, balsamic, or herbs; or sometimes with the addition of mayonnaise)
  4. Insalata di finocchio (fennel salad)
  5. Patate arrosto (roasted potatoes)
  6. Contorno di funghi (pan-fried mushrooms with onions, herbs and EVOO)
  7. Contorno di piselli (pan-fried peas and onions with herbs and EVOO)
  8. Verdure lessate (boiled vegetables, from broccoli to endive drizzled with olive oil)
  9. Verdure ripiene al forno (baked stuffed vegetables, from peppers to zucchini boats)
  10. Verdure al forno (baked vegetables with seasoning, the best Italian EVOO, and often balsamic)

Italian Dinner Drinks 

Our discussion about dinner in Italy wouldn’t be complete without mentioning which drinks Italians like to have with their dinner. That’s exactly what we are doing next.

Water – Most Italians are not big on soft drinks, so you’ll find that water is the common drink of choice along with wine, of course. These, plus the usual beer enjoyed with pizza, complement Italian cuisine best.

Italian Dinner Wine – For many Italians, dinner without wine is like pasta with no sauce. Men, especially, love a glass of red wine with dinner, while most women tend to prefer lighter wines like whites and rosé. 

Beer – Over the years, beer has become a favorite drink among Italians, especially when paired with more comfort foods like pizza, burgers, or roasted chicken and chips. While beer is usually most consumed when dining out in more casual settings, it’s become a favorite at home too but not daily.

Italian after-dinner coffee – A study carried out by the Nielsen Research group in the last few years shows that 50% of Italians consume coffee after dinner when eating out, but much less when having their daily dinner at home.

If you are wondering, the most common coffee drink Italians have after dinner is espresso.

italian grappa after dinner

Italian After Dinner Drink

Even though I am not backed up by data yet, based on my experience I’d say that more Italians end their dinner with an after drink that’s alcohol based than coffee.

And based on this Research Study I found all about liquor consumption in Italy, it seems I am right.

The study found that 59% of the population drank at least one liquor in the past year. Please keep in mind that the study was carried out before 2019, which means that consumption probably decreased during the pandemic, as Italians tend to drink alcohol more when out than at home.

Statistics aside, caffè-amaro is an Italian custom that’s known around the world, loved in Italy even more, and one that combines both coffee and liquor. It involves drinking an espresso after dinner followed by a shot of Amaro liquor. This latter is referred to as “ammazzacaffè” because it’s taken to kill the bitterness of the coffee.

Amaro Averna, Amaro Lucano, and Amaretto di Saronno are among the brands most loved and consumed in Italy.

Grappa but especially Limoncello is another after-dinner drink Italians love. To those, you can add regional liquors like Barancino, Liquore di Genziana, Liquore di Cedro, Mirto, and Liquore di Crema al Pistacchio.

Top 10 Italian Dinner Desserts

Wondering what dessert to order in Italy, or which one to serve at your next Italian dinner party? 

Get inspired by these 10 quintessential Italian desserts, or dolci.

  1. Tiramisu
  2. Cannoli
  3. Cassata
  4. Strudel
  5. Torta con crema al limone (lemon cake or tart)
  6. Torta cheesecake con frutti di bosco (cheesecake with berries)
  7. Budino al cioccolato (chocolate pudding)
  8. Torta gelato (ice cream cake)
  9. Biscotti da dessert (assorted butter biscuits, my favorite)
  10. Torta di compleanno (birthday cake with multiple layers of sponge and cream)


Dinner in Italy from North to South

Next, let’s look at Italian regional dishes enjoyed in 8 different Italian cities. I will share one traditional antipasto, first course, main course, and dessert enjoyed for dinner by the locals. That way, you can get a glimpse into that region’s dining scene.

cotoletta is a typical dinner in Milan

Dinner in Milan 

Antipasto: Insalata di Nervetti (veal shank salad)

Primo: Risotto alla Milanese

Secondo: Cotoletta alla Milanese

Dolce: Charlotte (local pudding with biscuits, cake or bread)

Dinner in Venice Italy

Antipasto: Sarde in Saor (sardines dish)

Primo: Risotto al Radicchio

Secondo: Baccalà alla Vicentina (salted cod dish)

Dolce: Tiramisu

Dinner in Genoa

Antipasto: Cappon Magro (seafood salad)

Primo: Trofie al Pesto

Secondo: Coniglio alla Ligure (rabbit dish)

Dolce: Canestrelli (biscuits)

Dinner in Rome

Antipasto: Fritto misto (fried platter)

Primo: Gnocchi alla Romana

Secondo: Saltimbocca alla Romana

Dolce: Crostata di ricotta e visciole (visciole is a cherry variety)

Dinner in Florence

Antipasto: Crostini con paté di fegatini di pollo (chicken pate crostini)

Primo: Pappardelle al sugo di cinghiale (boar meat sauce pasta)

Secondo: Bistecca alla Fiorentina

Dolce: Castagnaccio (chestnut cake)

tagliatelle al ragu bolognese

Dinner in Bologna

Antipasto: Gnocco fritto (fried dumpling)

Primo: Tagliatelle alla Bolognese

Secondo: Scaloppa alla Bolognese (meat dish)

Dolce: Certosino (rich fruit cake)

Dinner in Naples

Antipasto: Insalata di polpo (octopus salad)

Primo: Calamarata (pasta with calamari)

Secondo: Baccalà alla Napoletana (salted cod dish)

Dolce: Baba`

Dinner in Palermo

Antipasto: Sarde a beccafico (sardines dish)

Primo: Pasta c’anciova (anchovies pasta)

Secondo: Involtini di pesce spada alla Palermitana (swordfish rolls)

Dolce: Cannoli Siciliani



dining out in Italy

Dining Out in Italy 

All the dining etiquette and table manners rules we saw at the beginning of the article hold especially when it comes to dining out, or dining in company.

The favorite Italian dinner foods, side dishes, desserts, and after-drinks also apply to dining out.

However, the main difference is that more formal restaurant dinners or Italian special occasion meals held away from home tend to be much longer and include more dinner courses.

Normally, a romantic dinner in Italy would include a starter, a first course, a main course, and a dessert. The same applies to other formal and special dinners.

It’s also very common to start the dinner with an aperitivo in the bar area of the same restaurant, or a different bar.

Aperitivo is also an Italian’s favorite when it comes to more casual dinners, like when going to the local pizzeria. It simply involves having a drink or two, either a cocktail or the iconic Aperol Spritz, while chatting and snacking on some olives, crackers, and other small bites.

Tipping in Italy

Tipping culture in Italy reflects a blend of appreciation and cultural norms, distinct from what travelers might encounter in other countries. While leaving a tip isn’t obligatory, it’s certainly a gesture of recognition for good service. In Italian restaurants, a “servizio incluso” note on the bill indicates that a service charge has been added, rendering an extra tip unnecessary. However, rounding up the bill or leaving spare change as a token of gratitude is common. 

In more upscale establishments, a tip might be left if the service truly exceeds expectations. Tipping taxi drivers, tour guides, and hotel staff isn’t mandatory, but rounding up fares or expressing appreciation for exceptional service is warmly received. Understanding Italy’s nuanced tipping practices will help you navigate dining out in Italy with much more confidence.

How to Order Dinner in Italy

Here are handy Italian phrases you can refer to when ordering dinner in Italy.

  1. Mi porterebbe il menu? – Could you bring me the menu?
  2. Qual’è il piatto del giorno? – What’s the dish of the day?
  3. Vorremmo ordinare. – We would like to order.
  4. Prendiamo una pizza alla Norma, e una pizza pistacchio e mortadella. – We would like .. followed by whatever dish you want to order.
  5. Ci porti dell’acqua per favore? – Please bring us some water.
  6. Possiamo ordinare il dolce? – Can we order the dessert?
  7. Mi porta il conto? – Please bring me the bill.
  8. Grazie del servizio. – Thanks for the service.
  9. Era tutto squisito. – Everything was exquisite.
  10. Siamo molto soddisfatti. – We are very pleased.


typical italian antipasto

This section is dedicated to you if you love cooking Italian food at home for your family, friends, or guests. Before I share the most typical Italian dinner menu, at least in my opinion, I invite you to take inspiration from the regional dinner menus I shared earlier in this article. That way, you can create your menu featuring recipes from different parts of Italy.

And if you don’t like cooking, save your favourite dishes for your next trip to Italy. Don’t forget to add other iconic foods to eat to your list. You must of course eat pizza and gelato!

Starter

Platter with Italian olives, dips, cheeses, sliced meats, and bread served with a bread dip with olive oil and balsamic.

Pasta 

Tagliatelle al Ragù Bolognese

Main Course

Cotoletta Milanese with an Italian salad (cotoletta is breaded meat or chicken)

Dessert

Tiramisu

Drinks

Water, red wine, espresso and amaro.


Final Thoughts

And with this spooned dessert, our Italian dinner comes to an end. I hope this tour through our culinary traditions has surprised and delighted you. Each region, from North to South, lends a unique touch to dinner dishes.

But beyond regional differences, dinner remains the quintessential gathering moment in Italian culture. This is where we rediscover the value of togetherness and authentic flavors of our land, after a day of working or studying.

Whether enjoying hearty winter stews or fresh summer seafood, Italians take dinner as another opportunity to celebrate life. A glass of wine, a shot of Amaro, or an espresso punctuates these moments, turning a meal into a cherished experience.

So next time you gather around a set table, remember to savor not just the food but also human connections. This is the true magic of an Italian dinner. See you soon and buon appetito!


Frequently Asked Questions about Dinner In Italy

What time do Italians have dinner? 

Most Italians have dinner between 8 pm and 9 pm, sometimes even later around 9:30 pm, especially in Summer and in Southern regions.

Why is dinner so late in Italy? 

Dinner is later in Italy due to longer lunches, work schedules finishing later, and the culture of spending time chatting before dinner. Italians see dinner as a social event.

Is dinner the main meal in Italy? 

No, lunch is considered the main meal in most parts of Italy. Dinner tends to be lighter.

How long is dinner in Italy? 

An Italian dinner at home usually lasts 1-2 hours. When dining out, meals can extend to 2 or more hours.

What time do Italians go to bed?

Most Italians go to bed around 11 pm-midnight on weeknights. Later on weekends.

How does dinner work in Italy? 

A typical Italian dinner at home has 1 to 3 courses – a starter, main dish, and dessert. When dining out additional courses like antipasti and cheese may be added. 

Three popular dishes in Italy are pasta, pizza, and risotto.

What are 5 traditional Italian dishes? 

Five traditional Italian dishes include pasta carbonara, bistecca Fiorentina, ossobuco, lasagne, and tiramisu. 

Is pizza eaten as a dinner in Italy? 

Yes, pizza is very commonly eaten for dinner in Italy, especially takeaway pizza. It may be the only dish or enjoyed after a starter.

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