10 Italian Cliches You Won't Find in Italy

From Food to Families: 10 Things You Might Expect to See in Italy, But Likely Won't

There are so many things we believe to be Italian that you won't find in Italy at all. Read on, and learn which ones, among our best known Italian clichés are, in fact, not Italian at all. 


1. Caesar Salad


The most famous salad served in almost every Italian restaurant in the U.S. is actually not Italian at all, but American. In Italy, asking for parmesan cheese and croutons on a salad would mean asking for quizzical looks in response, at least until recently. However, globalization has brought international menus to many Italian restaurants now,  and some have begun to offer it. Don't be fooled, though. If you see "Insalata Cesare" on your menu, you're still going to order an American dish!


Caesar Salad


2. Rolling Spaghetti with a Spoon

Italians NEVER roll their spaghetti using a spoon because those who do it are considered rude. The same thing applies to cutting long pasta with a knife. Regardless of what you might have seen or heard, don't do it. If you're having trouble rolling your pasta using your fork, just set the tines on your plate to help you.


3. Salad As Appetizer

In Italy, a salad is served as a side dish with a meal's second course and never before the first. Asking for a salad as an appetizer is not common: Italians rather use salad to cleanse the palate after eating the majority of their meal.


4. Pasta and Meat on the Same Plate

Regardless of the type of restaurant, or the habit of your host, Italians never put two courses on the same plate. Pasta is one thing, meat, chicken, and meatballs are another: you will never see them mixed. Moreover, a good pasta dish doesn't need to be drawned in sauce, as the pasta is supposed to be colored by the sauce and not immersed in it. Spaghetti and meatballs is one of the most popular Italian-American dishes today, but it has never been popular in Italy. 


An Italian no-no : pasta and meat on the same plate.


5. Cappuccino After a Meal

In Italy, cappuccino is considered a breakfast drink. After midday, no true Italian would ever drink cappuccino, so if you decide to order a cappuccino after a full meal be prepared to receive a shocked glance from your waiter. Italians rather  go for a strong shot of espresso after eating. 


6. Oil and Butter with Bread in a Restaurant

Olive oil and butter are common ingredients in Italian cuisine, but it is not an Italian custom to eat them with bread during a meal. Restaurants will never put butter or a bowl filled with olive oil on the table to dip bread in. Buttered or oil drizzled bread are usually considered afternoon snacks, and requesting them at a restaurant would be a very American thing to do.


whole wheat penne pasta


7. Italians Eat Pasta Every Day

While pasta is a popular dish, many Italians prefer to replace it with rice, minestrone, and soup. The Italian diet is usually rich in vegetables, meat and fish, which are present of the table every day. Pasta, on the other hand, is more of a two to three times a week affair. 


An Appetizer Salad


8. Italians Eat Big Dinners

In most cases, Italians eat more at lunch than at dinner,  a meal which is typically eaten in the evening rather than in the late afternoon.


9. Couples Sitting Side By Side

Eating in Italy is a social event, so people prefer to be seated face to face. On a group outing or a double date a couple would rarely sit next to one another, allowing for more mingling.


10. Italians Have Large Families

Italian families with six to eight children are a thing of the past. Italians not only get married later than most Americans, they also have the lowest birth rate in the world and, as a result, the population is shrinking. Divorce is on the rise, and people often don't start families until they're well into their thirties. For a nation that has long based itself on traditional values of home and family this is certainly a  concern-rising problem. 


Edited by Francesca Bezzone 01/03/2014


Thursday, December 09TH, 2010 by Guest

To be honest I don't completely understand the what the writer is trying to say or the purpose of the article. I have traveled to Italy more than 30 times, lived there for four years, and never been to Italy without eating spaghetti and meatballs. Am I missing something??

Friday, March 07TH, 2014 by FrancescaBezzone

I am from Italy and I have never heard of spaghetti and meatballs until I went to the US; at the same time, I can vouch for the presence of Italian dishes involving meatballs and pasta. My grandmother (class 1917), used to make fresh chunky vegetable soup, which she'd let simmer all day to get all the flavours mixing nicely. She would then make small meatballs, which she'd throw in the soup and cook. She'd top it with loads of grated parmigiano. It was one of my favourite things when I was a child. 

And another thing: I personally quite like spaghetti and meatballs! :P

Wednesday, June 04TH, 2014 by kweenbee
ok Frances, I now need this soup recipe!! :)

@kweebee: let me dig it out from my grandma's cooking chest and I'll post it as an article! Think of a chunky Italian style minestrone, with roughly chopped vegetables, but no tomatoes, simmered for the afternoon, as a base. The meatballs are added at the very end, but add up to the taste!

Friday, December 10TH, 2010 by Guest

What about...

...Pasta Alfredo?
Non esiste!

...a plate with olive oil to dip bread in? ...butter for your bread?
Fuggeddaboudit -- they'll serve it to you, but these are requested only by foreign travelers. :)

Tuesday, May 24TH, 2011 by Guest

Funny article! Everything is true!!

Tuesday, June 07TH, 2011 by Guest

While it is true that Italians do not use a spoon to roll their spaghetti, I've never heard that it is rude. Children are often given a spoon to roll long pasta to help them learn to do it. By the time they're grown they don't need a spoon anymore. I lived there for 16 years, moved from north to south and dined in many italian friends' houses, they take great pride in their cooking and they have a good reason to! - Melania

Tuesday, June 21TH, 2011 by Guest

Not ALL Italian/American's are all the same!  My great-grandparents were from Bari italia..& Naples! I was born & raised in New York.. Our Parents brought us up the way they were brought up, Italia/American traditions from their parents!! they even spoke the old 1886 italian!

Tuesday, June 21TH, 2011 by PaoloNascimbeni

Foucobianco: Yes Rude is a strong word. The spoon is falling in disuse but I agree it is not rude to use it. Cutting spaghetti on the other hand - unless you are five years old is considered not good table manner.
Patkurk: The rules here refer to Italian in Italy not to Italian American

Friday, September 16TH, 2011 by Guest

Actually Italy does not have the lowest birthrate in the world. (It did MAYBE about 10 years ago.) Now Italy is the country with around the 5th lowest, at 1.5 children per woman. (Again, it used to be 1.2 a couple years ago.) The birthrate of Spain, Hong Kong, Poland, and Japan are actually lower than Italy's.