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Ordering at an Italian restaurant

n
newbie Oct 23, 2004 06:25 PM

I have been checking out some menus online in preparation for a trip to NYC and was wondering about ordering at Italian restaurants. Do people order something from each of the sections? (meaning antipasti,primi, secondi, AND contorni and dulce?)Don't get me wrong, at a place like Babbo I'm sure I can throw down. I was just wondering how ppl typically order.

For instance, an app split between 2, 2 salads, two contorni and a split pasta sound cool, or will we look we are from the countryside? ;)

hungry....

  1. e
    Evan Oct 25, 2004 11:21 AM

    It really depends on the restaurant. Some Italian restaurants in NY are created in the vein of restaurants in Italy where you would order an app, a primi, secondi. These types restaurants typically have much smaller portions of pastas and a la carte secondis (meat, fish, etc). So if you go in and order just an appetizer and pasta, you might still be hungry. A place like Babbo is designed like that, but their pastas are a little heavier and filling than one would expect. For instance, when I go there I get an appetizer, primi and secondi and find that the perfect amount of food, but my girlfriend can barely finish an appetizer and her primi. Other restaurants have menus that suggest just ordering an appetizer and a main course, whether it is a primi or a secondi.

    My suggestion is to ask the waiter how much to order and they'll usually tell you the truth. I've been to places in where the waiter has recommended to get one primi each and share a secondi. Don't be shy, and if you have any questions on a specific Italian restaurant in NY, you can just post below or on the NY/Manhattan board, and myself and others can inform you on serving sizes and specific dishes that we've enjoyed.

    1. c
      cap Oct 25, 2004 09:20 AM

      Traditionally you would order antipasto, followed by a primo (pasta/soup/risotto), followed by a secondo (main) with contorni, and finally dolci/formaggi. The secondo would be just the meat/fish with no vegetables etc., hence the contorni go along with it. In Italy the pasta (primo) servings are usually much smaller than in the USA, so this progression of dishes is not too overwhelming. Check with your waiter on the size of the pasta servings. You may want to order an antipasto each, split a primo, then a secondo (with or without contorni) each. To me, the formaggi on that menu seems more interesting than the dolci. Actually, there are some pretty good antipasti listed also... we would probably start with three or four antipasti, split a primo, then a secondo each and split a contorno.

      1. c
        cap Oct 25, 2004 09:20 AM

        Traditionally you would order antipasto, followed by a primo (pasta/soup/risotto), followed by a secondo (main) with contorni, and finally dolci/formaggi. The secondo would be just the meat/fish with no vegetables etc., hence the contorni go along with it. In Italy the pasta (primo) servings are usually much smaller than in the USA, so this progression of dishes is not too overwhelming. Check with your waiter on the size of the pasta servings. You may want to order an antipasto each, split a primo, then a secondo (with or without contorni) each. To me, the formaggi on that menu seems more interesting than the dolci. Actually, there are some pretty good antipasti listed also... we would probably start with three or four antipasti, split a primo, then a secondo each and split a contorno.

        1. j
          Janie Oct 23, 2004 06:34 PM

          I think you need to ask the portion size. In certain upscale restaurants the portions are very small, and it would be a good idea to order and appetizer, and a salad, and then each a main dish, and then split a dessert. If the main dishes are really large, then you could split and appetizer, and then each order mains, and then split dessert. At upscale restaurants, they may put pasta in the first course category, but alot of people, will order a salad and a pasta for their dinner, and not have to order from the meat or seafood entrees. Always a good idea to ask your server, if the portion is enough to split. You can always order more if you're still hungry. :)

          Also, I really really hate restaurants that require you to order appetizers, and they are out there. It's like the dirty looks you get, if you happen to not be able to drink alcohol and you decline a drink. Some of my best meals have been where I've ordered 3 appetizers, or combo of salads, and dessert, and that is my meal. Usually if you're with another person, they will understand you want to share stuff.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Janie
            d
            doc Oct 23, 2004 06:41 PM

            good advise- order whatever you like- ive never been bullied in a place- you'll be fine- take a deep breath- sit with you back to a corner lolololol

            1. re: Janie
              b
              billh Oct 23, 2004 11:51 PM

              I would order whatever you like, but check the portion size first. Many smaller Italian places have their portions sized (and priced) accordingly so you can enjoy all the courses if you wish. But for example at Babbo, the courses are so large that if my wife and I wish to have one of each, we'll share one app/antipasto, one pasta, one main, and one desert. If our tastes differ that evening we'll each have an app/antipasto and a pasta/main, then share a desert. Sometimes my wife will just order a couple of apps/antipastos when she doesn't have much of an appetite. We've never had a problem.

            2. d
              doc Oct 23, 2004 06:28 PM

              very entertaining post there.....if you have $$$$ and some guts just go to the wait person..or some one who hopefully speaks itlaina fatte voy( poor spelling) it indicates that the meal is in the hands of the waiter- you will not be dissapointed... by the sounds of your post.. you need some help lollol- no dis respect intended

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