As there are nearly three million inhabitants in Rome and nearly triple that number of visitors per year, one of the main industries in this city is FOOD. Sometimes there is even more demand than what is offered.
Most restaurants accept reservations, but they are not always required – especially in the more casual restaurants. Call ahead if you are not sure or if the city is particularly busy.
Most Italians eat later than tired, worn out tourists – usually after 8pm. Consequently, if you show up to a restaurant at 7:30pm, a table is almost always available.
Most restaurants are open for lunch between 12:30pm and 3 or 3:30pm. They will often have a break in service to prepare for the evening shift, which typically lasts from 7pm until 11:30pm or so. Because there are so many tourists in town, many restaurants in the centre open at noon and stay open continuously until midnight.
By law, all menus have to be written in both Italian and English, so don’t assume that a restaurant with a menu written in English is “touristy.” Traditionally, the menu and prices are displayed outside of the restaurant, so you can get an idea of the costs before you eat.
Roman restaurants are famous for their food, but not always for their service. Note that you always have to ask for the bill, as it is considered rude for the waiter to just bring it to your table if you have not requested it. Take your time and enjoy yourself.
“Turning tables” is not as important in Italy as it is in other parts of the world. Your waiter will not mind if you take your time after eating to chat, relax, and enjoy the human architecture of Rome.
Tipping is always appreciated by your server. If you decide to tip, 20-25% of your bill is the suggested amount for a trattoria or pizzeria, and 10-15% is the suggested amount in more upscale restaurants. Some guidebooks say that tipping is not the norm in Italy, but this is not accurate. If your server does a good job, let him or her know!
Italians love to go for a glass of wine after work to wind down. Many places offer a happy hour – usually for about 10 Euro, with buffet included. This can be a great choice for dinner, as the buffet alone is usually enough for a meal.
ESTABLISHMENTS TO AVOID:
- Establishments with people standing outside who try to push you into the restaurant.
- Establishments where the menu is in SEVERAL languages and includes photos of the food.
- Establishments located on all of the major squares in Rome. These restaurants tend to be touristy and overpriced.
- Establishments where no Italian customers are dining. This is a sign that the restaurant is not up to our Italian standards.
HOW TO DINE LIKE A LOCAL:
- Avoid eating outside. Even on a nice day, smokers, pushy flower vendors, and loud musicians can quickly turn this seemingly enjoyable experience into a nightmare.
- Do not be in a hurry. Food is practically a religion in Italy. The purpose of dining in Italy is to enjoy and taste the food. Sometimes service can be slow, but that is because the focus is on the food, not on time.
- Do not dip your bread in oil before you eat. This is a very un-Italian thing to do. The purpose of the bread on your table is to enjoy whatever fantastic sauce is part of your meal.
- Do not drink cappuccino after a meal. Capuccino is for breakfast or late afternoon, but never for after a meal. Have an espresso instead!