Breakfast is very light, and often consists of just cappuccino, milk and espresso. People sometimes eat yogurt, but there are no meats or eggs.
For lunch and dinner, it is customary to serve in courses. First is appetizers, followed by a first course, then a second course with a side dish. People usually order at least two courses, but you are not required to. Italian meals can least an hour or two, sometimes longer.
There are several rules with Italian dining. Pasta and bread are NOT served together. Also, buttered bread is not common. Italians will eat bread with oil, but not as an appetizer, as it will fill you up and ruin your meal. It is custom to have mineral water and wine along with your meal. Soda and milk are usually for children or teenagers, or if you are eating pizza at lunchtime.
Meals at restaurants are served on different plates, and portions are generally smaller than those in America. Appetizers are often antipasti, which could have cold cuts and specialties of the area you are in. Next is pasta soup or rice (risotto, usually in Northern Italy) is served first. This is followed by fish, meat or vegetables, and a side dish could be salad or a potato. The following dessert, or dolce, is by fruit or cheese.
When you eat a fish-based pasta, grated cheese is seldom put on it. Coffee is drunk following the meal, never with it. Cappuccinos are served at breakfast, but espressos are served following lunch and dinner. Italians generally put whipped cream on Cappuccinos rather than cinnamon. If you only want to eat a sandwich and not a whole ensemble, you can go to a bar. Bars are not just for drinking; Italians will often go there for breakfast, or even to purchase gelato.
When eating salad, Italians generally don’t eat “Italian dressing,” but oil and vinegar. Red wine is drank with meat, white with fish. Italians generally take Sunday to eat out for a long lunch with their families. Lunch is usually eaten at 1:00, and dinner at 8:00. Restaurants will usually close in between lunch and dinner. When you are finished with your meal, you must ask the waiter for your check, or else they will not bring it to you.