What Makes the Best Italian Restaurant
Italians are passionate about their food culture, which is evident when you step inside a fine Italian restaurant such as ours. When you see little quirks such as salad always coming after an entrée, and pasta and soup being served in the same instance, you know you’ve found your own authentic slice of Italian fare.
And like every good Italian restaurant which has deep roots in tradition and preservation of the craft of fine food preparation, there are certain Italian “staples” which will appear on the menu of these establishments. These tasty treats will certainly appeal to your taste buds, and enrich your cultural knowledge of the history of fine Neapolitan food. It’s these staples, and the mastery of their making, that are a true sign of the quality of the Italian restaurant.
A Look Into Traditional Italian Restaurant Cuisine
If you were to go to Italy to experience true fine dining, a meal you would expect to be presented would consist of a number of key elements which include:
- An appetizer (antipasto)
- A “primo” (first course) of rice or pasta which is served either plain or combined with various sauces and trimmings
- A secondo (a meat or fish course) accompanied by contorno (vegetables or a green salad)
- A selection of after-dinner delights such as cheese (formaggio), fruit (frutta) is normally served as well as a choice of numerous other desserts: cakes, pastries, and sweets (dolci), ices (gelati) or frozen cakes (semi-freddo)
- Wine or craft beer to accompany your meal, usually served in 1/4 (quarto), half (mezzo) or one liter (litro) carafes (sfuso).
So if you’re heading to a fine Italian restaurant and looking to experience the whole fare, then be prepared to be presented with a lot of courses, and to take your time experiencing the wonderful flavors of the authentic Italian cuisine as it tantalizes your taste buds.
The Neapolitan Pizza
A true Italian Neapolitan pizza is very different to the pizza you might find in your local pizza joint. A true Italian pizzeria will offer Neapolitan pizza that is backed by the official pizza governing body, VPN. Neapolitan pizza is always made to order, with a pizza chef in the kitchen kneading the dough for the individual pizzas as they are prepared. These pizzas are then cooked in a wood fired pizza oven at 900 degrees Fahrenheit using the traditional blast-cooking process, and as such will have a very thin crust. Typical basic toppings are: Tomato, mozzarella and anchovies (Napoli style); Tomato, Basil and mozzarella (Margherita); with mushrooms (funghi) or rugola and cherry tomato (pomodori pachini).
Italian Salad Dressings
What you might know as “Italian Salad Dressing” is in fact non-existent in Italy. A fine Italian restaurant uses authentic Italian ingredients in ther dressings which consists of: Olive oil, Vinegar (Balsamic vinegar is also ok), salt, and pepper. It isn’t a pre-prepared, machine-made product, but rather a combination of fresh ingredients that are mixed by you at the table. That’s how they do it in Italy!
Delicious Pasta Sauce
You are probably aware of the standard tomato-based sauces that Italian pizza and pasta are famous for, but did you know that there are a number of other specialty pasta sauces offered to accompany pasta dishes at Italian restaurants? Here’s just a few:
- Spaghetti alle vongole – a sauce with clams
- Spaghetti served with fish or a mix with vegetables (clams and rugola or salmon and asparagus)
- Spaghetti alla carbonara – with eggs, parmesan, pepper)
- Bucatini alla matriciana – noodles with tomato sauce, smoked bacon, onions and a hint of cognac.
Finishing Your Meal With a Caffe’
As a diner at any good Italian restaurant would know, coffee is a frequent addition to a meal – no matter what time of day it is. And what the Italians call coffee (or “caffè” in Italian) is actually known in the U.S. as an espresso. But did you know there are even a number of variations of espresso on offer?
- Ristretto or concentrated so that a spoon practically stands up straight in the cup
- Regolare or “normale” as it sounds, which is a normal espresso
- A lungo – served with more water, but still in a small cup like the espresso
- A macchiato which has a drop of milk added to it
- An al vetro – which is espresso served in a small glass rather than in a cup
- And of course, the caffè Americano, which is a very diluted espresso in a cappuccino cup.