If you have ever had the opportunity to travel to Italy or have enjoyed a home cooked meal by an Italian nonna, you may have noticed how lengthy a traditional Italian meal is.

You may have also noticed that there is usually enough food to feed a small country and it seems to never stop coming. Italians typically have their biggest meal of the day at lunchtime, or for us what may seem like a very early dinner. Sunday lunches are enjoyed at home and are a long-standing tradition in Italian households. They allow themselves plenty of time for meals so as to truly enjoy every delicious bite of food, appreciating the variety of all the flavors, and allow time for digestion. Whether dining out or at home, an Italian meal is a leisurely process that includes delicious food and quality time with family and friends.

To begin the meal, an aperitivo is served. To get the digestive juices flowing, a bubbly beverage is enjoyed; usually spumante or prosecco. In addition, small appetizers are served to nibble on, such as olives and nuts.

Next is the antipasti, or “starter”. Slightly more substantial than the aperitivo, the antipasti usually consists of salumi such as prosciutto, mortadella, and other types of Italian cured meats. Bruschetta and anchovies are other options that may be served at this time.

The first course is called the primi. Usually a hot dish, the primi very rarely contains any meat. This course is primarily pasta, risotto, or sometimes a soup.

Moving on to the second course, or secondi, the Italians traditionally enjoy a meat or seafood dish for this course. Depending on the region this dish can vary from beef, pork, or sausage dishes to lobster, fish, and much more. The secondi may also include more than one dish, in between which a palate cleanser is served.

Served alongside the secondi is the contorni, or side dishes. These sides are usually vegetable based and are typically served on separate plates so as not to mix flavors.

Contrary to our customs at home, in Italy, if an insalata, or salad, is served, it will follow the secondi.

At the end of the meal, as a final course before dessert, regional cheese and seasonal fruits, formaggi e frutta, are served.

Finally, comes the dolce. You may enjoy a bowl of gelato, a piece of tiramisu, and often times, an assortment of mini pastries such as cannoli, sfogliatelle, zeppole, and more will be served as dessert.

After the food portion of the dining experience has finished, it is time for the caffè. Unlike the coffee that we are used to, the Italians version of coffee is a very strong espresso with no additives such as milk or sugar.

To complete the meal, a digestivo is served. This is an alcoholic beverage such as grappa or limoncello, that helps with digestion.

Dining the Italian way is a true cultural experience; one that is not only pleasing to your taste buds, but is also encourages a quality time with your loved ones. Whether you have the opportunity to travel abroad, spend a Sunday lunch with an Italian nonna, or meet the family at one of two Vero Amore locations, try dining the Italian way!