Craving some delicious Italian food but not sure what to order? You’ve come to the right place! This comprehensive guide will walk you through the must-have dishes at an authentic Italian restaurant.
If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Start with bruschetta, minestrone soup or a Caesar salad, then order chicken parmesan, fettuccine Alfredo, or lasagna for your entree. Finish off with tiramisu or cannoli for dessert.
In this detailed guide, we’ll discuss the best appetizers, soups and salads, main courses, and desserts to order at an Italian eatery. With tips on traditional favorites, hidden gems, and what to avoid, you’ll be ready to order like a pro on your next visit to your favorite trattoria or ristorante.
Best Italian Appetizers
Bruschetta is a classic Italian appetizer that is loved by many. It consists of toasted bread topped with fresh tomatoes, garlic, basil, and olive oil. The combination of flavors is simply divine. The crispy bread provides the perfect base for the juicy tomatoes and aromatic herbs.
It is a refreshing and light appetizer that is perfect for kicking off your Italian dining experience.
Arancini, also known as Italian rice balls, are a popular appetizer that originated in Sicily. These delicious bite-sized treats are made by rolling risotto into balls, coating them in breadcrumbs, and then deep-frying them until golden and crispy.
The filling can vary, but a traditional arancini is usually stuffed with ragu, mozzarella, and peas. The combination of creamy rice, savory filling, and crispy exterior makes arancini a must-try appetizer.
Calamari fritti, or fried calamari, is a beloved Italian appetizer that is often found on menus around the world. It consists of tender rings of squid that are coated in a light and crispy batter and then fried until golden brown.
The result is a deliciously crunchy appetizer that pairs perfectly with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Whether you enjoy it as an appetizer or a main course, calamari fritti is a classic Italian dish that will never disappoint.
A Caprese salad is a simple yet flavorful appetizer that showcases the freshness of Italian ingredients. It typically consists of slices of ripe tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and basil leaves, all drizzled with olive oil and a balsamic glaze.
The combination of the sweet tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, and aromatic basil creates a harmonious flavor profile that is both refreshing and satisfying. Caprese salad is a great choice for those looking for a lighter appetizer option.
An antipasto platter is a fantastic option for those who want to sample a variety of Italian appetizers. It typically includes a selection of cured meats, such as prosciutto and salami, along with a variety of cheeses, olives, marinated vegetables, and crusty bread.
The combination of flavors and textures on an antipasto platter is a true delight for the taste buds. It’s a great choice for sharing with a group or as a starter before a larger meal.
Soups and Salads
When dining at an Italian restaurant, starting your meal with a delicious soup or refreshing salad is a great way to awaken your taste buds. Italian cuisine offers a variety of soups and salads that are bursting with flavors and fresh ingredients. Let’s explore some popular options:
Minestrone is a classic Italian soup that is hearty and comforting. It is typically made with a combination of vegetables, beans, pasta, and sometimes meat. Each region in Italy has its own variation of minestrone, but the common ingredients include tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery, and herbs.
This flavorful soup is perfect for those looking for a wholesome and nutritious start to their meal.
Pasta e Fagioli
Pasta e Fagioli, which translates to “pasta and beans,” is another popular soup in Italian cuisine. It is a simple yet flavorful soup made with pasta, beans, tomatoes, and herbs. This rustic dish is known for its rich and hearty flavors.
It is often enjoyed with a sprinkle of grated Parmesan cheese on top. Pasta e Fagioli is a great choice for those craving a comforting and filling soup.
The Caesar salad is a classic dish that originated in Italy and has become a staple in many Italian restaurants worldwide. This salad is made with romaine lettuce, croutons, Parmesan cheese, and a creamy dressing made with anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil.
The combination of flavors and textures in a Caesar salad is simply irresistible. It is a great option for those looking for a refreshing and light salad.
Italian Wedding Soup
Italian Wedding Soup is a flavorful and satisfying soup that is often served at Italian weddings. It is made with a delicious broth, meatballs, vegetables, and pasta. The name “wedding soup” is believed to have originated from the Italian phrase “minestra maritata,” which means “married soup.”
The combination of ingredients in this soup creates a harmonious marriage of flavors. With its hearty meatballs and nutritious vegetables, Italian Wedding Soup is a fantastic choice for soup lovers.
If you’re looking for a classic Italian dish packed with flavor, Chicken Parmigiana is a fantastic choice. This dish features breaded and fried chicken cutlets smothered in marinara sauce and melted cheese. It’s often served with a side of spaghetti or a fresh salad.
The combination of crispy chicken, tangy sauce, and gooey cheese is a crowd-pleaser that will leave you satisfied and craving more.
Lasagna, a beloved Italian comfort food, is a must-try when dining at an Italian restaurant. Layers of pasta, rich tomato sauce, creamy bechamel, and a variety of cheeses come together to create a hearty and indulgent dish.
Whether it’s a classic meat lasagna or a vegetarian version packed with veggies, lasagna is sure to please your taste buds and leave you feeling warm and satisfied.
For those who love creamy pasta dishes, Fettuccine Alfredo is a delicious choice. This dish consists of fresh fettuccine noodles tossed in a rich and creamy Parmesan cheese sauce. The simplicity of the dish allows the flavors to shine through, making it a timeless favorite.
Add grilled chicken or shrimp for an extra protein boost, and you’ll have a meal that’s both comforting and satisfying.
If you’re a fan of vegetarian options, Eggplant Parmesan is a fantastic choice. Slices of eggplant are breaded and fried until crispy, then layered with marinara sauce, mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese. The dish is then baked until the cheese is melted and bubbly.
The result is a flavorful and satisfying meal that even meat lovers will enjoy.
For those looking to try something a bit more adventurous, Osso Buco is a fantastic option. This traditional Italian dish features tender braised veal shanks cooked with vegetables, white wine, and broth.
The slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together, creating a dish that is rich, flavorful, and fall-off-the-bone tender. It’s often served with a side of risotto or polenta to soak up the delicious sauce.
No guide to Italian food would be complete without mentioning pizza. Italy is the birthplace of this beloved dish, and there are countless variations to choose from. Whether you prefer a classic Margherita with tomato, mozzarella, and basil or a loaded meat lover’s pizza with sausage, pepperoni, and bacon, you’re sure to find a pizza that satisfies your cravings.
Don’t forget to try a slice of authentic Neapolitan-style pizza with its thin, chewy crust and fresh ingredients.
When ordering at an Italian restaurant, the main courses offer a wide range of flavors and options to suit every palate. From classic dishes like Chicken Parmigiana and Lasagna to more adventurous choices like Osso Buco, there’s something for everyone.
So go ahead and explore the menu, and don’t be afraid to try something new. Buon appetito!
When it comes to Italian desserts, Tiramisu is an absolute classic. This delectable treat consists of layers of ladyfingers soaked in espresso and rum, topped with a creamy mixture of mascarpone cheese, eggs, and sugar.
The dessert is then dusted with cocoa powder, adding a rich and chocolatey flavor. Tiramisu is a must-try for any dessert lover, as its combination of textures and flavors creates a truly indulgent experience.
If you’re looking for a dessert with a satisfying crunch, Cannoli is the way to go. These tube-shaped pastries are filled with a sweet and creamy ricotta cheese mixture. Traditionally, cannoli are garnished with chopped pistachios or chocolate chips and dusted with powdered sugar.
The combination of the crispy shell and the smooth filling makes for a delightful dessert that is sure to please your taste buds.
When it comes to frozen treats, Gelato takes the cake. This Italian version of ice cream is known for its dense and creamy texture. Made with a higher proportion of milk and less cream than traditional ice cream, Gelato offers a smoother and more intense flavor.
With a wide variety of flavors to choose from, including classics like chocolate and strawberry, as well as unique options like pistachio and tiramisu, Gelato is a refreshing and delightful dessert for any occasion.
Panna Cotta is a silky smooth dessert that originated in Northern Italy. This custard-like dessert is made with cream, sugar, and gelatin, giving it a delicate and creamy texture. Panna Cotta is typically flavored with vanilla, but it can also be infused with other flavors such as coffee, caramel, or fruit.
Served chilled and topped with a drizzle of fruit sauce or caramel, Panna Cotta is a light and elegant dessert that is perfect for ending a meal on a sweet note.
Biscotti, which translates to “twice-cooked” in Italian, are crunchy, oblong-shaped cookies that are perfect for dipping into a cup of coffee or tea. Made with a combination of flour, sugar, eggs, and nuts, these cookies are baked twice to achieve their signature crispness.
Biscotti come in a variety of flavors, including almond, chocolate, and citrus, making them a versatile and delicious dessert option.
From bruschetta and minestrone to chicken parm, tiramisu and beyond, this guide outlined all the tasty traditional and modern dishes you should order on your next visit to an authentic Italian restaurant.
With this handy reference, you’ll know exactly what to order when you sit down for an incredible Italian meal. Just don’t forget to save room for gelato!