In America, it's common for restaurants to serve large portions and for patrons to ask for to-go boxes at the end of their meal. However, abroad, this is a foreign concept. In Italy, taking food to go is unheard of, and there are several reasons for this.
The quality of a chef's food is an integral part of the dining experience in authentic Italian restaurants, so taking leftovers with you will undoubtedly alter the original dish. Countries like Italy also have stricter laws regarding food additives, and the food rarely includes preservatives. While there is a scientific reason leftovers taste so good, don't expect those extra slices of pizza to stay good after they've sat in the fridge for days.
The portion sizes in Italy are also much smaller than most Americans are used to. In Italy, it can be seen as insulting if someone doesn't finish their meal because the quantity is supposed to be just enough for a single serving. Alternatively, many restaurants in Italy have family-style dinners that are designed to be shared. This also encapsulates the Italian dining experience with various wines and snacks. Ordering just one item is a common mistake people make at Italian restaurants. Traditionally, this pre-meal drink and snack are called an "aperitivo."
Italian Dining Is A Very Different Experience
Italian dining is often a several-hour affair, giving diners time to enjoy multiple courses while socializing. For example, a plate of meats and cheeses may be served before a few pasta dishes. Then, a meat dish will arrive, followed by fruit or dessert. Restaurants are designed to be relaxing experiences in Italy, and your waiter likely won't be hovering or rushing to bring the check.
Even coffee shops in Italy rarely serve espresso in to-go cups since they're supposed to be enjoyed in the café. However, many establishments are becoming accustomed to the norms of tourists and adjusting their options. While taking food to go has historically been seen as asking for a "doggy bag," certain restaurants that accommodate foreigners have started to adapt.
If waitstaff offers to-go boxes, there is a good chance that they serve a lot of travelers. If there's a "sitting charge" or a fee to sit at a table even if you don't order anything, that restaurant is likely marketed for foreigners. While the occasional touristy restaurant may be unavoidable while traveling, it's nice to know what to expect. Still, if you are looking for an authentic Italian experience, you likely won't be taking leftovers with you.
Read the original article on Mashed.