When I arrived in Italy I was really surprised by so many, different rules that rule the way you can eat and how you can behave in a restaurant. Actually, it is an art of going to the restaurant …. ok now it seems to be so sophisticated, but it is not! It is enough to know few, basic rules and you won’t have any problems with Ligurian restaurants 😉
Here below I have listed general rules … it means that sometimes you can find an exceptional place with other rules … well, everything depends on where you arrive 😉
Place where you can sit down
Sometimes, when you arrive at a restaurant you can notice free tables … I’ve already seen situations that tourists arrived at a restaurant and sit down where they found a free table …. without asking anybody if it is really free … WRONG! Such kind of behaviour is considered very rude here in Liguria … You have to always ask a waiter or an owner of the restaurant if there is a free table for you. If you won’t do this and you decide where to sit down by yourself probably you will be asked to leave the table.
Rule N° 1: ALWAYS ASK IF AND WHERE YOU CAN SIT DOWN.
Ligurians (the same as Italians in general) have very strict eating hours. They normally start eating lunch from 12.00 pm- 2.00 pm and dinner from 8.00 pm – 10.00 pm. It means that also restaurant’s kitchens are open during this eating hours. It also means that if you go to a restaurant at 3.00 pm they won’t give you anything to eat … because the kitchen will be already closed.
Rule N° 2: WATCH THE MEALS HOURS.
At least 99,99% of Ligurian restaurants have their “giorno di chiusura“, that means rest day. Usually, it is a weekday, rarely Friday, Saturday or Sunday. That’s why it is important to make sure when is a rest day at the restaurant where you would like to eat … just in case to avoid unpleasant surprises.
Rule N° 3 : WATCH THE REST DAY.
It depends on the restaurant. Some of them don’t accept reservations. In this case, you arrive at the restaurant that you’ve chosen and eventually wait in line. However, the majority of the restaurants in Liguria accept reservations. So when you book a table, everything is much easier. My suggestion: always book a table if you are going to eat in a restaurant on a weekend. Restaurants in Liguria are very busy during weekends!
Rule N° 4: BOOK A TABLE DURING WEEKEND.
Types of restaurants
As I wrote in the past, in Liguria you don’t find only RISTORANTE but also TRATTORIA, OSTERIA, GASTRONOMIA, ENOTECA, TAVOLA CALDA, ROSTICCERIA, TAVERNA … they are all different, they cost different, they serve different things … that’s why it is better to know before where you are going to eat 😉 More info about different kinds of restaurants you can find here.
Rule N° 5: THE NAME OF EVERY RESTAURANT IN LIGURIA TELLS MUCH ABOUT IT.
When you ask a bill, you will find there not the only a list of the meals that you’ve eaten … but also a voice: COPERTO. Coperto is a kind of “service fee”. It includes the whole table service (waiter service, table sheets, small appetizers before you order). Coperto depends on the restaurant, but usually, it is about 2€-4€ per person. Coperto is not a tip.
Rule N° 6: COPERTO IS ALWAYS PRESENT.
The tips are always welcome. They are not obligatory as in the US but they are common. To make it easier, if you liked the service and you ate well, you can leave about 10% for a tip. However, if you don’t do this anybody will be angry with you 🙂
Rule nr 7: TIPS ARE NOT OBLIGATORY, BUT THEY ARE VERY WELCOME 🙂
Restaurant menu has to be exposed outside of the restaurant. If it is not, you can ask for it a waiter. It is a great possibility to know before what you can eat in this place and also how much does it cost. If you like what you read you can ask if they have a free table and eat there … if not, you can go away … without problems 😉
Rule N° 8: CHECK MENU BEFORE ENTERING, IN THIS WAY YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE GOING TO EAT AND SPEND.
Asking for ketchup in a restaurant in Liguria (as in whole Italy) it is a kind of insult. Probably (if they have it) they give it to you … but they won’t esteem you for it. I really suggest you eating as Ligurians and avoid ketchup … you are in Liguria and you should eat Ligurian! You will use ketchup at home again 😉 (Of course, I don’t mean french fries but the main, Ligurian dishes … even in Liguria french fries are ok with ketchup …)
Rule N° 9: KETCHUP IS THE BEST IN USA … NOT IN LIGURIA 😉
Eating spaghetti with a spoon
TERRIBLE! DON’T DO THIS! As long as you want to behave as Ligurian/Italian do. Italians have invented all kinds of pasta so they know the art and the way of eating it 😉 I can ensure you that when they see tourists eating pasta with a spoon they are really terrified 😉
Rule N° 10: DON’T USE A SPOON WHILE EATING A PASTA!
Good luck and BUON APPETITO!