Italian Food Rule – Don’t Dip Bread in Olive Oil

It was at least twenty years ago when I first broke the Italian Food Rule: Don’t Dip Bread in Olive Oil.

Or, to clarify: Don’t serve bread with a bowl of olive oil with a swirl of balsamic vinegar as an appetizer (or any other part of the meal).

Back to my first experience: I was so enchanted by the new food presentation, I never forgot the moment.

Farallon Restaurant in San Francisco - where I first broke the Rule
Farallon Restaurant in San Francisco – where I first broke the Rule

It was my first dinner at Farallon, that fantasmagorical Paul Kuleto restaurant in San Francisco. Sitting under the jellyfish chandelier, I watched with curiosity as our waiter presented with a flourish a thin sliced baguette of warm sourdough bread and a bowl of deep green extra virgin olive oil. But he didn’t stop there. With some sleight of hand he produced a small bottle of balsamic vinegar and created a floating purplish S on the surface of the oil.

It is a true talent to be able to swirl
It is a true talent to be able to swirl

Noting our bemused expressions, he explained that the proper procedure was to dip a bite of torn bread into the oil, catching a smidgen of the aceto balsamico (I can’t remember if he actually said “aceto balsamico”) and pop it into one’s mouth. I caught on immediately and for the next ten years or so I savored bread dipped in olive oil throughout the fine restaurants of San Francisco and across the United States.

I always thought the idea was conceived at Farallon, but others claimed the genesis was at some Little Italy restaurant in San Francisco, and still others thought that Il Fornaio was the first. Certainly San Francisco was the first city to break the Italian Food Rule: Don’t Dip Bread in Olive Oil. (If anyone has evidence of the practice pre-1990 in another location, let me know.)

In 1998, I arrived in Italy and it was immediately apparent that there was absolutely no practice of setting bowls of olive oil on the table so customers could munch on bread before the antipasti arrived. In fact, then and now, there may not be bread on the table until the main course is served, but that is a story for another day (Italian Food Rule: Don’t Eat Bread with Pasta).

However, by the turn of the millennium, most Americans, including those from places like Iowa and Vermont, were hooked on olive oil and bread. They arrived in droves on Italian shores expecting to be served olive oil, bread and even that squiggle of balsamic vinegar in the trattorias and fine restaurants across Italy.

What usually happens if you don't practice your S design
Extra virgin olive oil & balsamic vinegar – (photo credit

In the beginning, Italian waiters (and restaurant owners) were simply confused – why all of this demand for olive oil when there was no food on which to put it? – but then they swiftly moved from being perplexed to being appalled.

Why appalled, you ask? Certainly Americans (and other tourists) have broken Italian Food Rules before, especially the ones regarding cappuccino, pizza, and ice cubes. But those infractions paled in comparison with what happened when Americans, olive oil, and bread were combined. It was a catastrophe: A tourist asks for bread. The waiter complies, sneering a bit because he knows that eating bread before a meal ruins the appetite and leads to fat. Then the tourist throws the waiter an impatient look and asks for the olive oil.

What do you see? A laughing baby? A beach babe? Old olive oil?
What do you see? A laughing baby? A beach babe? Old olive oil?

Now the waiter quits sneering and either says that there is no olive oil for the dining room (salads are dressed in the kitchen, pasta and veggies get their last splash from the chef; same with the main courses) or he brings a large bottle of olive oil – from the kitchen or the waiters’ service stand – to the table.

You say you still don’t understand the problem? Imagine the table in our hypothetical trattoria. Now there is a basket of bread and a bottle of olive oil in the center by the small candle or tiny floral centerpiece. There are four paper placemats, each topped with a knife and fork and a napkin. What do the Americans do? They have stretched to ask for pane and olio, using the right words. They have no further language resources or patience for piattino, ciotolina (or piccola ciotola), or any other tableware word, and frankly they are a bit miffed that the olive oil didn’t come served in a bowl.

So they take a slice of bread, place it on their paper placemat, and gingerly aim the spout of the large olive oil bottle at the center of the slice, trying desperately not to run over the crusty edges. Of course, olive oil, poured by even the most careful person, soaks through the light Italian bread, onto the placemat or napkin underneath.

The tourist is upset and embarrassed and the waiter is appalled and apoplectic. Now, add a hypothetical cotton tablecloth under our hypothetical paper placemats and you can see how the problem escalates. I do not exaggerate here for effect – I have seen both situations with my own eyes.

Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar and Rosemary Twigs - Too Much Stuff
Olive oil, balsamic vinegar and rosemary twigs – too much stuff

There are a few good reasons for the Italian Food Rule: Don’t Dip Bread in Olive Oil. Fine Italian extra virgin olive oil – the only type to eat with bread – is expensive. To place a bowl of olive oil on the table in front of Italians guarantees the waste of excess oil because Italians don’t eat bread before they start their meal. (Some might argue that Americans will wipe the bowl clean, but remember Italian Food Rules were not created with Americans in mind.) Italians aren’t given to eating out of a communal bowl (dipping a hunk of bread in olive oil, taking a bite and then dipping it back in the same oil would cause Italian to go pale with visions of bacteria, viruses, etc.). There is the possibility of drips – Italians avoid potential messes. This list probably just skims the surface of reasons behind the Rule.

A waste of two expensive ingredients
A waste of two expensive ingredients

As for that S of aceto balsamico floating on the oil… There is probably an extra penalty for adding that to the crime. Italians do not put balsamic vinegar on bread. Italians do not make a salad dressing with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (red wine vinegar only). Traditional aceto balsamico is wildly expensive, exquisitely good and should never be wasted or drowned in olive oil.

But if oil and bread together is so good, why don’t the Italians give in? Well, Italians do eat bread with extra virgin olive oil on top. The dish is called fettunta from fetta (slice) and unta (oily) – an “oily slice”. The bread is not dipped in oil. A slice of bread is toasted (preferably over a flame), rubbed while still warm with a halved clove of fresh garlic, and placed on a plate. Fresh extra virgin olive oil is poured over the slice of bread and salt is added to taste. It is difficult to find this dish in a restaurant because it is considered simple home food, not worthy of a dining experience and difficult to price since it is basically a slice of bread with a splash of olive oil.

Fettunta - No dipping needed. No violation of the Italian Food Rule.
Fettunta – No dipping needed. No violation of the Italian Food Rule.

When in Italy, save the dipping of bread in olive oil for a formal tasting of the year’s new oil in December and January when the purpose is not to eat a lot of bread, but just to taste a variety of fabulous just pressed extra virgin olive oils. Keep the practice out of your restaurant experience while touring Italy and perhaps, give it up at home to avoid violating the Italian Food Rule: Don’t Dip Bread in Olive Oil.


Italian Food Rules by Ann Reavis is available now. You can buy Italian Food Rules by using these links:

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106 thoughts on “Italian Food Rule – Don’t Dip Bread in Olive Oil

  1. I completely agree. The good olive oil (and balsamic vinegar) are too expensive to waste! So the answer is the fettunta! As you wrote! Thank you Ann! Paolo

  2. Many years ago we were taking a cooking class in Montacatini. When the instructor and chef of the hotel heard that one of our fellow students asked for some olive oil to dip the bread in, the chef came out and angrily said, “not here, that’s never done in Italy”. There was a heated argument with the chef and the American whose heritage was Italian, said that was always done in his home. The chef refused to bring some olive oil.

  3. Thanks Elaine. Like spaghetti and meatballs, having an Italian heritage doesn’t mean you are following the Italian Food Rules. The new world brings new ideas -some better, some worse.

  4. My first trip to Italy was in 1999. We saw some people dipping bread mid-afternoon and having wine. I’ve never seen it since. But those people could have been Americans!

    At a cooking class last fall on lake como, the chef mentioned this American habit and stated that the oil will coat the pallette and ruin your taste buds for the meal. I can see that as an explanation too but I tend to agree with yours more. Fine oil and balsamic are expensive and not to be sopped up.

  5. Hi, I’m Italian, born and raised in Milan, Lombardy. Although I’m from the north, and I believe you are mostly talking about southern recipes and tradition, there are a couple points in your article I have to disagree with.
    First of all, I’ve never heard of this rule. I’ve been dipping bread in extra virgin olive oil since I was a kid, the only reason I don’t do it anymore is because that would make me extra-fat! Sometimes I even used to add some aceto balsamico to it, but really that was just my thing – nobody told me, I came up with the idea all by myself.
    Also, I have been seasoning my salad with extra virgin olive oil and aceto balsamico my entire life. It’s very common! It’s not like it costs 10 bucks a drop! It’s normal! Besides, I don’t even like red wine vinegar.
    One more thing, you call it “fettunta”, but the common name is “bruschetta”. In most places here, if you say fettunta nobody will understand, while “bruschetta” will be understood the same way here and all the way down to Sicily.
    Hope that helps!

  6. Rules rules Rules. Hogwash!!!! It tastes great and I will dip as I please. Give me a break. Enjoy life and eat what tastes good people.

  7. ” Italians aren’t given to eating out of a communal bowl (dipping a hunk of bread in olive oil, taking a bite and then dipping it back in the same oil would cause Italian to go pale with visions of bacteria, viruses, etc.) ”

    I think you are romanticizing a bit about Italy and Italians. Believe me, nobody in the world is more afraid of “bacteria, viruses etc.” than Americans. Italians also do eat out of shared plates/bowls.

    Davide also brings up good points.

  8. My wife is from southern Italy, so we visit often. Her family has Italian friends that almost consider it a delicacy to eat fine bread with quality olive oil (no vinegar, however). So parts of this do happen in Italy.

    I think it’s important to note that many Italian eating ‘rules’ are common sense-based. No bread before pasta is just intelligent, as they are both carbohydrates and you will be getting vastly more calories adding bread to the already calorific pasta. However, eating bread in the evening is more common in Italy, as pasta is less often served for the evening meal (which is generally much smaller than the mid-day one).

    One rule you haven’t mentioned is ‘no cheese with fish’. Try requesting parmesan for your sea-food pasta and watch the revulsion on your waiter’s face as they say ‘but it’s fish!’

  9. The not eating bread with pasta rule is a lie! maybe it’s a northern thing but in the south, dipping the bread in the sauce is almost a religion! puccia puccia!

  10. We, Americans of Italian descent, add Parmesan cheese to many foods. My mother, from just outside of Lucca, Tuscany, always sprinkled it on the daily soup she made for us…cheese and even freshly ground pepper (as we got older).
    While in Lucca recently, my husband and I took our extended family to a local restaurant to thank them for hosting us with various activities and meals at their home. Farro was ordered by my cousin and myself. I told her that we sprinkle Parmesan cheese on it. She thought it was weird. She tried it, since we had done this, and didn’t care for it.
    I cannot imagine having any type of soup without sprinkling Parmesan on it… but then again, I am 60 years old and that’s the way I have had soup (minestra) all these years.

  11. Sorry to come so late to the party, but happy that somebody besides myself calls out this nonsensical conceit among American restaurants – not only do they NOT do this in Italy (for the very reasons you describe) but also in Croatia, just across the Adriatic. The Istrian/Italians would also be appalled.

    mille grazie!

  12. I do not understand why Italians are so stuck up to their rules.This goes also for the French.
    It is absolutely baffling to me and I believe it has something to do with some kind of ignorant pride and narrow/closed mindedness of the Italians (I know this by experience because I have lived in Italy before).

    I am a Lebanese/Arab that has lived and worked in 4 different continents, and can say without a shadow of a doubt that the Arabic cuisine, including the Persian and Indian is far more superior than the Italian in terms of flavor, ingredients and variety. We Middle-eastern people truly believe that Italian cuisine (and the rest of the European cuisine) is poor…they are simply a poor people in terms of eating (they consider everything expensive, have no knowledge on or even access to complex herbs and spices). The only thing that makes Italian food good is the quality of their ingredients like veggies, fruit and bread due to their amazing highly volcanic mineralized soils.

    Anyways my point is….if you would go to the best restaurants in the Arab world (Middle-east) from Morocco to Dubai and you wanted something crazy or disgusting like baked potatos floating in a bowl of olive oil no one would complain…they would just bring it to you. We are a people who are famed for hospitality and service! In arab countries we never shun or look at people because they asked from something weird….the costumer gets what he wants end of story! This is why I am very baffled by this way of thinking in Italy and some other European countries.

    I am not here to make some kind of promotion….but I guaranty you that if you visit the middle-east your taste buds will have multiple orgasms from the food that is available here and you will be served like the costumer you deserve to be!

  13. So, we are supposed to do what the Italians do? I will put my California grown olive oil up against anything in Italy (Italy actually imports about 90% of the olive oil it consumes). I will use mine the way I want. The girls at my house will also shave their armpits! You can’t get better olive oil than some that is grown right here in the USA!

  14. The Romans did use olive oil and spices to dab their bread in, though. I do not see why the Italians despise it. Perhaps it came with the other cultures that did not like Rome, and took it over at it’s fall? Who knows.

  15. As well as a thriving holiday rental business here in Tuscany, we also grow our own organic olives and make our own extra virgin olive oil. We sometimes cook for guests, and we always put bowls or bottles of our amazing oil out for our guests to dip their fresh bread into. Once they’ve tried the real thing, they never go back to buying cheap nasty oil.

    However, we’d never, EVER add balsamic to our oil, as this would totally ruin the fruity, nutty, spicy flavour of our oil.

    And therein lies the reason the whole olive oil+ balsamic has become so popular. Most of the extra virgin olive oil sold world-wide is anything but. It’s cheap, nasty oil, not even necessarily olive oil, that’s been deodorised in a refinery, flavoured, coloured with chlorophyll, put in pretty bottles, labelled “Made in Italy” and shipped all over the world as extra virgin olive oil. You can even buy the same rubbish in the supermarkets here in Italy.

    It’s a multi-billion Euro business, and everyone in the business knows what’s going on, especially the farmers (who can’t sell their real product because prices are undercut by the cheap facsimiles) and the politicians (who take huge bribes to turn a blind eye, and receive big tax incomes from the business).

    Italy is the world’s largest IMPORTER of olive oil, as well as being the largest exporter.

    So if you take this largely tasteless green-coloured ‘olive oil’ and add a splash of balsamic to mask/add-to the flavour, then who’s to know any better? If the vast majority of Italians can’t tell the difference between good oil and ‘lampante’ (oil fit only to be burned in lamps) then what chance have ordinary consumers got elsewhere?

    One day someone will put an end to this terrible business, but until then, buyers beware.

    If you want to hear an extended rant on the subject, read this:

  16. I was just in Rome and Florence on vacation and that is a myth. Where we ate they always pulled out the loafs of bread and cut them and gave us that first and olive oil and balsamic right there on table for dipping.

  17. This is so amusing to me. I was in Milano in 2008, and there I first witnessed a true Milanese lady explain her friends from outside of Italy explain that the oil & vinegar was there to dip your bread in.

    In 2010, we were in Tuscany and after finishing our meal, leaving some dressing in the bowl and having leftover bread, she demonstrated us to use the bread to dip in the dressing.
    I think that as with most Italian food, it varies from place to place how to approach food.

    Some swear that risotto must be dry, while in other regions it must be able to create waves.

    I honestly don’t care, I’ve had very few disappointing meals in Italy.

    In the Netherlands (where i live) they do serve bread in most restaurants on which you can smear herb butter. Indeed to fill up guests before the meal.

    In America I’ve noticed that even ordering a first course is getting yourself into a feeding frenzy. Every portion is soooo big, that we after the first night we only ordered mains.

    If you ever want to eat surprisingly good, go to Turkey. Their cuisine is underestimated but filled with sunshine.

  18. Many of the people commenting were not raised in Italy in Italian families, where the rules Ann mentions likely prevail. The commercial enterprise of running a restaurant will give rise to different practices and will likely erode traditional mores over time.
    I don’t know much about traditional Italian cuisine, but I was fortunate enough to have many meals at an (south) Italian born and bred Noni’s table and her food was exquisite and fresh. The table was as Ann described.
    I wonder if the Americans in the hypothetical trattoria were just demonstrating their presumed sophistication by ordering a dish they believed to be part of fine traditional Italian dining. I would have to be pretty over-caffeinated (or very young) to ignore what the diners around me were doing and to mistrust the restaurant staff to the point of demanding the bread, oil and balsamic.
    When I was first served this in a restaurant in N America, I ‘knew’ it wasn’t traditional and frankly, didn’t like it. Now I often see it listed on menus as a separately ordered dish, often costing $10 or so.
    I say, eat what you like. But no one’s going to think you’re all that because you’ve eaten bread with oil and balsamic so spare us the attitude.

  19. When I was very young I took my new love to my first expensive restaurant. I keenly observed the habits of the other men – which I had also observed when my parents took us to a fine dining restaurant – and tried my best to do the same; being raised by proper men of the 1950s-60s. I’ve been using this rule ever since. I imagine if I ever have my bucket list dream of visiting Italy I’ll attempt to do the same.

    I don’t understand what has happened to these petulant tourists. But I don’t like tourists in my own country so maybe it’s just me.

  20. Just returned from Rome and we were served olive oil and vinegar with bread at every restaurant.

  21. Too good to waste? Who said anything about wasting it. If you like it then enjoy it.

    Just don’t expect to be served the dish in a traditional Italian restaraunt.

  22. The creative aspect of the human mind lends itself to new ideas and sometimes renders new tastes, some of which catch on and are enjoyed and appreciated by many. In this instance, and as a person who loves Italian food more than any other I am one who loves the blend of olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a small dish and that I get to dip my thin sliced baguette of warm sourdough bread into it. This is something you do before dinner arrives while taking small bites and sipping a great red wine. It adds to the romance and overall experience. There are many dishes that we call “Italian” in the United States that would never be accepted by the restaurateurs of a place like Italy. Personally I feel that if Italy were to be more open minded to those who come there for the food they serve to be a bit more accommodating to our simple requests and, along with that perhaps they could learn a few tricks from us. Change is the one thing that is inevitable and most of the time… it is for the better. Americans like things the way we have become accustomed and I would say to other countries that if they would just be a little more accommodating we would in turn have more to talk about, in a positive way to our friends back home and then, they too might want to take a vacation and visit that country too.

  23. It’s one thing for a restaurant to not offer dipping bowls of oil and pepper or balsamic. It’s another thing for anyone at that restaurant to get snobby about it. This article does a good job painting traditional Italians as ignorant and intolerant. Olive oil is essentially the same as butter and anyone that has trouble accepting that bread and butter(or olive oil) is a good combo probably isn’t running a restaurant I’d want to be eating at anyway.

  24. Actually the first time I had bread with olive oil and spices in it, not balsamic vinegar, was in Greece; in fact, there was olive oil on everything. Piece of feta cheese brought out (more like a block), olive oil on it; bread brought out, olive oil with it; salad brought out, only olive oil on it; look at the condiments bottle of olive oil sitting there… I cant say I know how far back this goes but I saw it in tourist areas and non-tourist areas; I was in the run down areas part of the time. Let me know what you think.

  25. I am in Colonno right now on vacation (Lake Como) and what is funny to me is the Italian pickiness about food rules, but the absolute ignoring of rules of safe use of the roadways. I have never seen such unsafe disregard of other people’s safety by Italian drivers, and what appears to be selfish disdain of traffic rules. Ignoring rules of the table hurts whom? Whereas you take your life into your own hands trying to share the road with Italian drivers!

  26. Well, I can see why you are saying all this rules. However, they do not make sense to me. Travelling to Spain, Italy, What it used to be called “Yugoslavia” and many other countries. Americans are more germophobic than Europeans! Also, in 1983 when I was in Italy near the Adriatic coast, we were served freshly baked bread and a little bowl of olive oil with lots and lots of garlic. Never forgot the experience!
    So, yes, bread and olive oil together and before our dinner.

  27. Oh what’s the BFD? If people enjoy dipping bread in herbs & olive oil then SO WHAT? Food rules? Ridiculous. If you’re gonna waste calories eating white flour to begin with, you’re much better off dipping it in oil than slavering on butter!

  28. Hi,
    We divide our time between our home in Wales, UK and our farmhouse casa in the mountains of Italy near Atina and Cassino – an hour south of Rome. Most local restaurants without asking serve bread or bruschetta – which in some cases is their excuse to make a standard cover charge of 1 or 2 euros. They will also serve olive oil and balsamic but this is not usually just provided – unless requested. But then we are in the mountains and they do value their Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
    We have our own olive grove and cold press and bottle our oil after the December harvest each year – as do most people in the area – but usually just for their own use. Ours is a non-touristy, rural area but restaurant food is always of the best quality, served by caring staff whose life’s work, it seems, is ‘to be of service’. This is why we bought in this region. There is no pomp, no arrogance and no rules – I have cappucchino anytime of the day. Here there are just friendly, helpful and caring locals. The restaurants have a local saying – ‘if it isn’t fresh, from the valley, and in season, you won’t find it on the menu’. Incidentally, in the mid 90’s when in Northern Italy we bought a set of olive oil dipping dishes in a stand, so they were dipping bread in oil at least 20 years ago in Italy. Great site. Regards, Alan & Carole.

  29. My mother’s side of the family (my mother included) were all immigrants from Naples in the 60s. We would always dip our bread into some olive oil, no matter if it was during dinner or just for a snack. There’s so many Italian food myths and fake rules floating around, just because you’ve seen something once or in a certain area of Italy doesn’t automatically make it the Law of the Land.

  30. Wow. I was enjoying the many comments made by so many. Until I came across the comment by Cynthia Ryan. Odd how some people can be so smug.

  31. Perhaps Italians today don’t practise that but it doesn’t mean it was invented recently in somewhere very far away from Italy. Here I quote: “From the basket of bread made without yeast, which is before the Lord, take one round loaf, one thick loaf with olive oil mixed in, and one thin loaf.” Exodus 29:23. BTW I’m not a Christian.

  32. I accidentally came upon this page while looking for ways of making an olive oil dip for some Tuscan Pane bread. I have to ay that this page, and the comments were very enlightening to say the least, FUN, and informative. I work in Grocery Retail (TRADER JOE’S), but have had various food interests (cooking, etc) since I was a child. And through my food experiences, met folks from all over the world. Thanks for this page. I’m going to hit up my Italian friends on this “issue”. Now I may have to re-think my original bread/olive oil plans.

  33. I spent my childhood summers in Northern Italy as my father is Italian and my mother is English, I have never seen or dipped bread in olive oil in Italy and our diet was mainly fish, salad and soup. I think that today many traditions from all countries are being slowly changed as we become a more cosmopolitan world. I have travelled to many counties over the years and think that taste is personal. As my Italian father would say what people choose to eat is their business, I think the key is not to be put off by others likes and dislikes but to eat what we want! I love English Fish and Chips, but it seems English people would prefer to eat bread and olive oil so who cares anyway:)

  34. I don’t care about wastage here – because I simply don’t waste. I mop up every last drop. A good rustic slice soaked in EV olive oil is hard to beat. Who cares what the connoisseurs think!!

  35. I’m not very old and I have only been to Italy twice, but I think people have to realize that if you are served olive oil and bread at a restaurant in Rome, Florence or any other major city in Italy, it’s because they are trying to accommodate to tourists who generally come from North America. But I agree that these food rule things are dumb. We have both Italian and Greek family friends (which are both very similar) and they are very easy going when it comes food. Although they are strict when it comes to ingredients and recipes, they both don’t really care how or what you eat with your meal as long as you eat it respectfully and without wasting anything.

  36. I have to say that I agree with the comments that find these Italian (and French for that matter) ‘food rules’ incredibly tiresome. Would I eat olive oil and vinegar with bread? No. But do I care if anyone else does it? A vehement, absolutely not!
    I’ve lived in both Europe and the Middle East and Tony_carlos is right that the Arab sense of hospitality simply dis-allows a waiter or a chef from sneering at the culinary desires of their guests. In this way, dining in the Middle East reminds me of the kinds of experiences people used to report having in Europe in the middle of last century.
    I’ve had Arab chefs run out of the kitchen to interview my one vegetarian child to come up with a dish he would like. I’ve had waiters waive me off a selection in the nicest of ways ‘try the Tuna, the Hammour is not great today’. In Europe such care and concern for the happiness of the guest is a completely lost art.
    So dip your bread in whatever you want, and maybe try a visit to the Middle East for true hospitality.

  37. If only we italians had a cent (euros or dollars) for every time someone has said something about our traditions or about our “supposed” food rules …. I’d be rich by now and I could buy this blog and close it.

  38. I am of Irish decent, my husband family from Italy. He doesn’t ever remember his Gramdmas, Aunts, or Mom serving olive oil to dip bread in. But who cares, he loves it. They did serve very ripe, sliced tomatoes to dip bread in. Let me say this. Go to any American home on thanksgiving and you will find a vast array of different “Traditional” Thanksgiving foods. My point….. No one way of cooking or serving food is authentic…every italian mom had their own person ways of preparing, cooking and serving food….EACH way is just as valid as the Mom down the street. About the comment about the Middle East. Good food, nothing THAT special (I grew up in Dearborn, Mi). Largest population of middle eastern people outside the Middle East live there. Even a lot of street signs are in Arabic . Eaten in their homes and resturants. I don’t find them any more accommodating then others, some even made me uncomfortable..With a bad attitude as I was the only American in their resturants

  39. These rules do not in fact exist. The author is just making stuff up, trying to appeal to a specific ignorance some Americans have about other cultures – that those other cultures are filled with fundamentally different life forms who are all perfectly predictable in following strict rules about lots of different stuff which, if you violate as a tourist, they will think you’re from another planet. That is simply absurd and people need to get over it.

    This article is insultingly dumb.

  40. Wow.

    The pretense of this article is only topped by most of these comments. Just because the internet exists doesn’t mean any of you are more or less important than the other 7 billion. Get over it.

    Italian this italian that. No one cares really, not even italians. Rules rules rules. Are you going to damn me and ticket me for eating as I please?

    Like someone else commented middle eastern food is far more diverse than anything these other regions offer except maybe the US. The US has everything plus another entire grouping of mixes of all those things in ways they never happen in the regions they originate. Call the US a simple place for food and you are being a fool.

    Thankfully I can get good authentic food of all these cultures here as people from all those cultures came here and brought it with them.

    Get over yourselves.

  41. I so agree with you Humbleenoughnottocare, I hope to hell that anyone visiting this article will bother to read the comments, as the above ‘rules’ are hogwash.

    I lived in Italy for 12 years. As a child newly from the UK, an Italian chef once said to me when asked what was the right addition to pasta (black pepper/ olive oil/ Parmesan) he said “whatever tastes good” with a smile.

    Later I was having the usual messy trouble with spaghetti, down my front, down my chin etc. as I tried to copy all the grown ups. I asked him what the correct way to eat spaghetti was, he smiled again and said “whatever gets it in your mouth”.

    If I was at a restaurant- ANY restaurant, and I asked for ketchup and rainbow sprinkles on my Foie gras, I would damned well expect to get it! Without funny looks or comment, a Chef with delusions of grandeur in my experience is very soon unemployed- and I am happy to help to that end.

    True Italians would literally laugh out loud at this pomposity.

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