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Formal Dinner and Etiquette Workshop

September 29, 2008

Well, thursday night our group of 125 are having our first of three formal dinners. It will prove to be a very valuable experience, both in tasting some of the best food of the Veneto region, and in an etiquette crash course. This dinner will be at Ristorante Barbesin (www.barbesin.it) and it will be the whole big shebang. Duel antipasti, duo primi piatti, secondo piatto, and dessert with different wines paired with them all. Dr. Ringleb, the director and owner of CIMBA, is fronting the bill for the wine in order to let us taste the best of the best, so I am very excited about that.

In order for our huge group to not embarrass Dr. Ringleb and the rest of the staff, we were required to attend an etiquette workshop today. I learned a lot of interesting things about etiquette in general that I never knew, such as the differences in where you put your non-eating hand in America, France, and Italy. Also, the differences in how you cut your food, and the the case of the US, switch your fork from left to right. In Italy they do not do that, making it much more convenient and faster to get the food you want to eat into your mouth quicker.
As far as dining out at Italian restaurants, they supplied us with a valuable list of Do’s and Dont’s. Here it is, word for word:
Breakfast:
Forget about….

– Sitting down in a bar (which in Italy is actually a cafe)
– Asking for coffee, you must be more specific
– Asking for a “latte,” they will hand you a glass of warm milk
– Finding a starbucks anywhere
– Supersize coffee, or supersize anything
– Bacon and eggs
– Half and half, Italians have never heard of it
– Asking for toast, they will give you a grilled ham and cheese sandwich
– Decaf — they do have it; however, it is called HAG
– Leaving a tip, it is never necessary in Italy
Lunch:
Don’t….

– Eat on the street, in a store, a bank, or anywhere except sitting down at a restaurant
– Try to eat at odd times, you must be in by 1:30
– Let the waiter talk you into eating all the courses — Italians rarely go all out at lunch
– Ask for butter with your bread because it will give you away as a tourist
– Be afraid to ask for toast, grilled ham and cheese is good for lunch
– Forget to order an espresso after lunch, it will show you are in the know
– Linger too long because the waiters want to get home for their afternoon nap
– Forget what you just ate — you will often have to remember when you pay the bill at the bar
– Haggle over the cover charge, its not just for tourists
– Pay by credit card — save it for dinner
Dinner:
Don’t….

– Get there too early, 8:00 at the earliest — the further you go south the later it gets
– Expect a cocktail before dinner. Do that somewhere else, not at the restaurant
– Ask for salad first, you eat it last in Italy
– Ask for salad dressing — olive oil and balsamic vinegar
– Get coffee or soda with your meal — it’s water and wine only
– Rush out, sit there as long as you like
– Ask for doggy bags — if you are with Italians they’ll crawl under the table!
– Get a cappuccino after dinner — only with breakfast and smug waiters will ask only to make fun of tourists
– Wait for your bill — you have to ask for it

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