The following post was written by my new friend, Susan, and is so fresh and honest that I just want to reblog it. I would only add one other thing at the end, so it is now 6 easy things you can do to quickly offend your server!
From Susan’s blog: Americans in Umbria:
Rule number 1 to make the waitress crazy.
1. Talk to your waitress in English in a loud voice even though she has addressed you in Italian. Here’s the thing. If someone speaks Italian to you it is because they don’t know English! They know you are not Italian. Trust me, they know. If the waitress is young and doesn’t know English she will be embarrassed because she thinks she ought to know English. If the waitress is older, she may be defensive and rude because she thinks you should know Italian. Speaking to them loudly in pidgin English won’t help either. The waitress will just look shell shocked and not know what to do.
What you should do is ask, “Parla Inglese?” If the waitress does not, she is more likely to find you someone who can.
2. Order items out of order. Italians may look like there is no order or system in their lives, but it isn’t true. It is just different from Americans. Italians are very ordered around food. They are very serious about food. To them, eating is not just putting calories in your system that will later be burned off. So, there is an order in giving your order. You will first be asked about water. Do you want water with gas or natural. This question needs to be answered first and then the waitress disappears while you look at the menu. If someone shouts out beer, and someone else shouts out spaghetti, the waitress will get the same shell shocked look and god knows what you will get. Probably the owner. So allow the waitress to take your order in her manner. People should go one at a time and stay on the same course.
3. The next things that will drive her crazy. At a table of 4 have one person order an antipasta, one person order a primi, the other person order a secondi and the last person orders a salad, which oh by the way is not on the menu. So the American asks, “Do you have a mixed salad?” to the owner. (The waitress has now high tailed it to the kitchen.) The owner says, “Yes, of course.” The American says, “Where is it on the menu?” The owner says, “It isn’t on the menu.” The American says,”What’s in it?” The owner says, “We make it for you what do you want in it?” The American says how many Euros? The owner says 3. The American says, ok my husband and I will split it.” Now everything is out of order. The salad, which usually comes last, is expected first. The antipasti which should arrive first is now matched up with the primi and the secondi. There is confusion everywhere, and everyone seems unhappy.
4. Walk into a ristorante that offers “Typical Umbrian food” and expect a full menu of things you would eat in the states. Oh by the way, Umbrians do not think their food is Italian. It is Umbrian. It is different from the food in Tuscany, way different from the food in Rome and Naples. It is generally grilled meat and meat sauce with pasta. Very little tomatoes and very little butter. Cheese is big. It is usually made in house. It is good, but unless you are at a large city, like Perugia, you are going to see pretty much the same thing on the menus because Umbrian food is pretty much the same thing, if you get my drift.
5. The final thing to do to make your waitress crazy is to order a pizza at lunch. Italians eat their pizza for dinner and it isn’t available at lunch. Why is this? The wood pizza ovens are too hot to heat up during the day. There are some places that sell pizza by the slice at lunch, like in the grocery mall. Need I say more? One last thing once if you order pizza for dinner, ask for your left over pizza to go home with you. The Italians are horrified by this. Why? Because they think warmed over pizza is disgusting and why would you do that to a food you can go and get fresh.
How do I know all of these things? I have done everyone of them.
Thanks, Susan. You are soooooo right!
And now, for my additional thing:
6. The best way that I know of to convince your Italian server or manager/owner that you are a heathen from another country is to order a cappuccino after a meal. Unless it is breakfast, or a mid-morning merenda, do not order any coffee drink with any milk in it after 12:00 p.m. You may order a cappuccino and they will begrudgingly serve it to you, but just know that deep down inside they think you are uncivilized and know nothing about how to enjoy food and drink. You may order un caffe’ without a problem–in fact Italians think that an espresso after a meal helps with digestion–but never, never order a cappuccino. If you absolutely, positively must have milk in your coffee and it is after noon, you can order a macchiato with approbation, but I’m willing to bet that if what you really want is a cappuccino, you will not be satisfied with a macchiato. Just sayin My recommendation to you is to simply wait for morning!