Places to Dine

It doesn't matter if your passion is bruschetta, fresh mozzarella cheese, pizza, or delicious seafood.....restaurants in Bella Napoli...satisfy all cravings! Check out our tips on how to maximize your culinary experience in Italy...and let our restaurant guide give you some suggestions.

There are several distinct types of places to eat in Naples, but the distinctions are blurring as U.S.-based lifestyles permeate Europe. Following are some terms you may see, and what they mean:

This is not a U.S.-style bar (those places, usually hotels, which have U.S.-style bars will advertise "American bar." While you can buy beer, brandy or other alcoholic beverages at Italian bars, the central part of the bar is the espresso coffee machine. Bars are frequented throughout the day, but especially in the morning, when they serve pastries to go with the coffee.

In bars, you go first to the cashier, tell him or her what you want and pay for it (of course you can look at what is offered before you go to the cashier), then take the receipt to the counter and order, leaving a small tip (usually from 0.20 cents to at the most 1.00 euro) with your receipt. Most Italians eat and drink standing up at these places. Many places have tables and chairs, but if you sit down, you are in effect saying you want waiter service and are willing to pay the extra charge (as much as double price) for that service. If you do get the waiter service, you should also leave a small tip for the waiter above the cost of food and drink.

Pastry shop. Many times they are part of a dual bar/pastry shop. Such a sign usually means a wider selection of pastries available. Many also serve other foods besides pastries, such as varieties of sandwiches ("panini" - literally, "little breads").
Some places may even put "panini" on their signs, and have, again, a larger selection.
These are excellent places to get a quick, inexpensive snack or lunch. Again, you pay first, then order.

Tavola Calda
Literally, "hot table." The closest U.S. translation would be "grill." These are more elaborate than panini shops, featuring hot dishes. Some are small with only a few choices each day, and you select what you want from a glass enclosed display and the shop attendants dish out for you.
Most have a few tables where you can sit. Some have become so elaborate that they are like U.S. self-service cafeterias, although the word cafeteria in Italian literally means a shop that sells coffee, so you won't see that word often applied to the meaning we have for it.

A place selling rotisserie-cooked meats, most often whole chickens. Sometimes, they will advertise itself as a polleria. In Italian, a "something-eria" usually means a place that sells that "something." So, a polleria is a place that sells pollo (chicken). These places are great for getting an inexpensive, very tasty if somewhat messy lunch or dinner. In the Naples/Gaeta region, there are many such shops along the streets and highways selling chickens which have been roasted on a spit and basted with oil spiced with sage, marjoram and oregano. Many Americans like these very much, and call them "road chickens." Try one!

The Naples landmark, selling (of course) pizza. Pizza was invented in Naples (ask any Neapolitan if you doubt this), but they are NOT the pizzas you get in Pizza Hut or Domino's or whatever in the U.S. They are usually individual size, and come with a wide choice of toppings. Most pizzerias also sell other foods, and many other types of eating places also advertise themselves as a pizzeria. For example, a place that calls itself a ristorante-pizzeria is telling you that, in addition to its full restaurant selections, it also has a pizza oven and can cook one if you would prefer that.

A smaller, usually family-run full waiter service restaurant. The menu is more limited, the decor usually less ornate and the prices usually lower than a full ristorante. These places seem to becoming rarer, but can offer some of the best cooking available.

A restaurant, offering a large-selection menu and full waiter service. These range from small places to very large, ornate (and sometimes expensive) places.
The Naples region has some Chinese, Japanese, French, etc. specialty restaurants, but relatively fewer than in large cities in the U.S.

The Italian Meal:

A full meal begins with antipasti, or appetizers. It is acceptable to order antipasti alone for lunch, but it is considered gauche at dinner.

Next, the primo piatto (first course, a.k.a. primi) arrives: usually some sort of pasta, risotto, or soup. Especially on Thursdays, many restaurants serve up homemade gnocchi, dense dumplings of potato or semolina flour, frequently in a gorgonzola or four-cheese sauce.
While lasagna al forno (baked lasagna) may be tempting, know that it's often prepared well in advance and will probably not be particularly fresh.

The secondo piatto (second course, a.k.a. secondi) usually consists of meat or fish. Innards and other odd parts of the cow or pig are often a particularly important part of Roman cuisine. Seafood is common: calamari is very good here, especially when grilled.

There are numerous contorni or side dishes, mostly vegetable specialties, which are generally served with the main course. Even the most single-minded carnivores will enjoy dishes like fagiolini (early-picked, tender string beans) or pomodori (fresh tomatoes in olive oil with salt and fresh basil). Roman mixed salads (insalata mista) are usually full of veggies, and, interestingly enough, anise.

Dolce, desserts, are typically accompanied by the essential espresso. Freshly made tiramisù (sponge cake soaked in espresso and rum, layered with sweet mascarpone cheese, and dusted with cocoa powder) can be wonderful. Profiteroles, delicate rolled pastries with chocolate and cream filling, are also exquisite. Panna cotta is a delicious cream custard, covered in chocolate sauce or frutti di bosco (blackberries and raspberries). And if gelato isn't rich enough for you, try tartufo, truffly ice cream usually served in the bianco (vanilla) and nero (chocolate) versions, sometimes served in espresso.

For an after-dinner drink (digestivo), try grappa, potent, doubly distilled clear liqueur made from old grape pressings or sambuca con le mosche (anise liquor "with flies"---that is, flaming with coffee beans floating on top).

The billing at Italian restaurants restaurants can be a bit confusing.
Bottled water is usually automatically served and charged to your bill: ask for frizzante (fizzy) or naturale (still), but don't even think of asking for tap water---it's just not done.
Many restaurants add a cover or bread charge of €1,00 (one euro) per person.
Service charges (servizio), if not included in food prices, may be added to the bill, to the tune of 10-15%.

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