Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Visiting an Italian for dinner

Visiting an Italian for dinner
If you’re lucky enough to be invited to an Italian’s home for dinner, there are a few unspoken rules which you may be expected to follow – especially if your host is older or very traditional.

Gifts: you should always bring a small gift for the host or hostess, or send flowers the day of your visit, or the day after (but remember to send an uneven number, and avoid chrysanthemums and red roses.)

Arriving: guests generally arrive 15 to 30 minutes after the stated start time and on introduction, shake hands with everyone there – men, women and children. Be sure to stand if an older person enters the room and wait for the host to start eating before you pick up your fork. 

Wine: there are some rules on wine too. If you don’t want a refill, keep your glass almost full. Don’t pour your own wine, especially if you’re a woman (it’s considered unfeminine).

Eating: if eating pasta, roll it your fork on the sides of your pasta plate, not in a spoon. When you’ve finished eating, put your knife and fork side by side on the plate at about the 5:25 position (there’s no difference between am and pm). The fork should be on the left and the knife should be on the right with the blade of the knife facing the fork. If you’re served fruit, always peel it and use your knife and fork for everything except cherries and grapes.

Leaving: hopefully, trying to remember all these rules won’t get in the way of enjoying fantastic Italian hospitality…but do remember to shake everyone’s hand again as you leave