The Tastes of America and Italy

By Sarah Moscato (Kent State University)

When you think of differences between one culture to the other, the first things you think of are language, clothes, and, of course, food.

Food can be very different throughout different cultures. Sometimes we even define food by the culture it is from. “Hey you want Chinese tonight?” or “We should go to the Olive Garden, I’m in the mood for Italian” have become common phrases in America,  and all over the world we define food from where it comes from.

When I came to Italy, I thought there would be many exotic foods to eat. Before I came I was a vegetarian and stopped specifically because I was coming here, as I didn’t want to miss out on any dishes just because I wasn’t allowing myself to eat meat. While I have run into these situations, such as eating squid ink on pasta in Venice,  a main difference between America and Italy’s dining  experiences is when we eat what we eat.

The first meal everyone eats is of course breakfast. In America, we are constantly told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It should be rather hardy, because it is the start of your day. Most people have some sort of carb, such as cereal, toast or pancakes, for breakfast to give them some energy. We also will have eggs and fruit with the meal, making it a healthy but a good amount of food. Though many people don’t leave time for breakfast and will usually just grab one of these things, that is what Americans are mostly expected to eat.

In contrast, Italy tries to make their breakfast very light. Sometimes they will just drink of cup of coffee with milk sometimes with a piece of bread or pastry.

Americans eat lunch between noon and 1:00 each day. It is usually something fairly light, maybe a sandwich and a small side such as a fruit or chips.

But for Italians, lunch is normally regarded as the most important meal of the day. They usually don’t eat it until sometime after 2:00 in the afternoon. This meal usually consists of a first course, a second course and normally a dessert or fruit to go along with it.

Because Italians eat lunch a little later and have so much in that one course, they tend to not do too much snacking throughout the day. But it is normal for them to have a mid-afternoon snack sometime after 4:00. This can be true for Americans as well, though there is no specific time to snack.

Dinner in America is usually eaten between 6:00 and 8:00 and is the biggest meal of the day most of the time. Though doctors say that breakfast is the most important, dinner usually ends up in the spotlight.

There is most times a main dish of pasta or meat, a side dish of vegetables and another side dish. Sometimes Americans will have something for dessert, but most of the time this is only for special occasions.

For Italians, dinner is again a very light meal. They have lighter food such as soup, salad, cold meats, pasta, or the leftovers from lunch. Dinner is eaten sometime past 8:00.

The Italian meals seem to be much more structured than American ones, as we do not have multiple courses and snack throughout the day.

Italians also have apertivo, which is when you buy a drink and the restaurant has a light buffet spread that comes with your drink. It has been a convenient alternative to dinner when traveling, as we get a drink and a meal for only the price of a drink, instead of having to pay for a restaurant style meal every day.

So for the most part, Italians and Americans eat somewhat of the same things, just at different times. We all eat pasta, meats, and side dishes. But there are still differences I have seen between what Italians and Americans eat.

I think Italians tend eat ice cream more often than Americans. There are many more gelaterias than there are ice cream shops in the US. Of course what Italians are famous for, pasta, seems to be eaten quite frequently. Then there are the couple of things I have seen that just seem very strange, such as cow tail and rabbit, but those are probably not he most frequented dishes in Italy anyways.

There are also things we eat more in America, one being peanut butter. There are a fair amount of Italians who have never tried peanut butter! And if you’re looking for sour cream, you may have a difficult time finding it.

So if you are looking for different dining experiences then ones you are used to, but are still a little scared about completely changing your diet, an Italian one is probably pretty good to try.


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  1. Manuela says
    10 December 12, 7:29pm

    Absolutely, Italians do not have lunch after 2 o clock! Most people go back to work at 13:30, so….


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