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Italian Dining Etiquette: Do’s and Don’ts at the Table

Dining out in an Italian restaurant is a cultural experience as well as a culinary one. When you understand the nuances of Italian dining etiquette, the meal will be both enjoyable and memorable.

Let’s look at what to do and what not to do when eating out Italian-style.

How to Order

An Italian meal is an art with different flavors, specialties, and courses. Food is not piled onto a single plate but served separately in the form of a salad or vegetable course, a pasta course, a main meat or seafood course, and dessert. To take full advantage of the experience, remember that the goal is to taste every flavor in the meal. This is not going to be a rushed affair.


Italians like to open their appetite with an aperitif or before-dinner drink. An Aperol spritz or frozen limoncello spritz are both good options. The aperitif accompanies the antipasto course, which is usually an appetizer of bread for dipping, prosciutto, and other cured meats or fruit. The Salumi Board at Partenope Ristorante is sharable antipasti including prosciutto di parma, salame toscana, hot coppa, ‘nduja, calabrian chili honey, ricotta, parmesan, and house bread.

Primo РPasta 

For your pasta course, choose a dish that contains no or very little meat. An excellent choice at Partenope is the Cacio E Pepe Alla Crema Di Tartufo, spaghetti, parmesan, pecorino, black pepper, and truffle cream.

Secondo – Meat or Seafood

Thick sauces that contain meat are referred to as ragu in Italian. Our Ragu Napolitano is made with the finest imported paccheri pasta, a slow-cooked tomato ragu of pork and beef, and whipped ricotta. Napoli Centrale Pizza contains Italian sausage, Bolognese sauce, mozzarella, ricotta, basil, and prosciutto di parma.

Italy has a massive coastline, so Italians get to eat a lot of fresh seafood. If you prefer to have seafood as your second course, the Scarpariello Di Mari at Partenope is a spicy blend of spaghetti, marinara, garlic, cherry tomato, calabrian chili, and shrimp.


In Italy, the salad course comes after the main course as a palate cleanser. When dining at Partenope Ristorante, you can enjoy it then or have it American-style before the main dish is served. It’s your choice. The Partenope Salad is a lovely mixture of field greens, cherry tomato, carrot, and Parmesan tossed in balsamic vinaigrette.


Finally, round out your Italian dinner order with coffee, a piece of fruit, or a digestive cocktail like the Neapolitan espresso martini, Nu Cafe; amaro, frangelico, espresso, and vanilla-coffee bitters.

Table Manners to Keep in Mind

When the host says, “Buon appetito!” it’s time to eat.


Italian dining etiquette dictates that the knife remains in the right hand and the fork remains in the left. Don’t use a spoon to twirl spaghetti onto your fork. Rather, use the sides of the plate to help get the pasta on the fork. When finished eating, lay the knife and fork parallel to each other across the right side of the plate, tines facing downward.

Place Setting

The place setting in an Italian restaurant may feature several pieces of cutlery with a fork and spoon above the plate for dessert. Glasses are for water, white wine, and red wine. A small plate will hold antipasto and a large plate is for the main course. A bowl might be for soup, if there is a soup spoon present, or pasta, if there is no soup spoon available.

When Eating Bread

Bread is served without butter, but olive oil for dipping. Bread can be placed in a bread dish, if there is one, on the side of the main plate or on the table throughout the meal.

Elbows Off the Table!

Elbows should never be placed on the table. Hands should be visible above the table when not holding utensils, with wrists resting on the table.

Have a Taste of Italy in Dallas

To master your Italian dining etiquette, enjoy a taste of Italy at Partenope Ristorante. We offer a true Neopolitan experience in our Dallas and Richardson restaurants.

Contact us for reservations or more information.

Image Source: Olga Klochanko/Shutterstock