- 1st there is the antipasto: This is often a cold dish, each region with its own specialties varying with the season. It may be sauteed vegetables, salami and prosciutto, or bruscetta.
- 2nd is the primi or which means first course, and is the pasta dish. It is a small portion, not the full plate of overcooked pasta covered with heavy sauces most Americans think of.
- 3rd is the secondo or meat course, which consists of a meat, fish or poultry serving, again without heavy sauces or any side dish. Some restaurants may offer a vegetable-based secondo but it’s not common in this part of the country.
- 4th is the contorni or vegetable course. They may be hot or cold cooked vegetables, usually what is currently in season. There is usually an insalata offered which is a leaf lettuce salad which is served with olive oil, vinegar, and salt. Again no heavy creamy dressing.
- 5th is dolce. The sweets which is usually a pastry or gelato in warm weather.
- 6th is the fruit. Again this is what is available seasonally and may simply be fresh melon or fruit cut and served cold.
The previous are served with red and white wines. The last two may not be considered actual “courses”:
- 7th Caffe’; espresso coffee with lots of sugar – no milk.
- 8th and final is the digestivo. This is a small liqueur such as grappa, limoncello or American whisky - which is very popular among Romans.
This full eight course meal is served slowly with lots of conversation and usually lasts two hours or more. Considering meals begin at or later, this can make for a long night of eating.
Daily meals and small gatherings usually do not include this full array of food – perhaps just a primo, insalata and fruit – with wine of course.