It’s always a fun time when you visit an Italian restaurant—even if you don’t have a whiff of Italian blood in your veins. Italian cuisine is just scrumptious, and delightfully filling as well. It’s very possible to finish a meal of French cuisine and still be hungry afterwards. That doesn’t seem possible when you get into an Italian restaurant like Carrabba’s Italian Grill, Maggiano’s Little Italy, or Italianni’s.
When you’re there, the simple rule simply is to order what you want. But that’s not exactly the right way to go about things. There are some dishes that you may not want to order. This usually isn’t because they’re not delicious. It’s simply because you’re better off making those particular dishes at home.
There are dishes, however, that are simply better when you order them at an Italian restaurant. So, when you’re at an Italian place, here are some tips you might want to remember:
Try the Lasagna
Lasagna is almost always better at a restaurant (especially at an Italian restaurant) than making it at home. Making lasagna yourself can be rather annoying. It just takes too much time and effort, and it’s always worth simply paying extra at a restaurant. You get that layered dish with various fillings like meat, cheese, and veggies, without going through such a laborious process.
Also, you can always take your leftovers at home. Lasagna is actually quite robust instead of delicate. Stick it in a freezer, and it reheats nicely.
See If the Chefs Are Making Their Own Pasta
At the grocery store, you may notice that pasta is one of the most affordable items there. But the handmade versions are just better-tasting. It’s just a lot of trouble to make it yourself, and that’s true even in Italian restaurants. In these places, they often have a designated person whose sole job is to make the pasta all day.
To make sure you taste the difference that comes with handmade pasta, don’t order a dish whose sauce hides the flavor of the pasta. Instead, go with a dish where the sauce enhances the pasta. That means you don’t go with the heavy Alfredo sauce. It’s better to go with the thin tomato sauce or even just a light drizzle of olive oil.
When you taste the handmade pasta, you might balk at going back to the grocery version, though.
Go with a Braised Dish
A braised Italian dish is another option takes too troublesome to make yourself. You’ll have to be patient when you fry or sear the food in a pan at high temperature, then you have to cook it covered with a bit of liquid at low heat.
The entire cooking process can take up to 12 hours to finish, which is just too much especially for those used to fast food. So, try a meat sugo with a pasta or braised meats when you’re at an Italian place.
Order a Veal Dish
This means trying the osso buco, as you might not be able to find the required veal shanks easily. Also, this dish takes many hours to make. Other options include veal scallopini with mushrooms, veal piccata, and veal Marsala.
Sample the Deep-Fried Arancini
This is one comfort food that those with Italian genes find hard to resist. And even if you’re not Italian, you’ll love it. These are small, often bite-sized rice balls, usually stuffed with many different fillings like peas, cheese, or the meat-based ragu sauce.
Then they’re breaded and fried before they’re served hot. These savory treats can be eaten as they are, or with a dipping sauce. It’s a lot more enjoyable when you don’t have to deal with all that frying.
For an authentic Italian flavor, go with the traditional fillings like ragu, al sugo, al burro, besciamella, mozzarella, or caciocavallo cheese. Meat is also a traditional option but there are restaurants that also offer vegetarian alternatives.
What about the dishes you shouldn’t order? You may want to avoid the margherita pizza, simply because they’re often overpriced. This pizza uses dough, a bit of sauce, some mozzarella, and less than half dozen pieces of basil. All those components may cost just one dollar, but then you may end up paying $12 for the margherita pizza.
You may also want to skip on the Spaghetti Bolognese, because it’s a simple dish that’s hard to mess up when you make it yourself. Making your own Spaghetti Bolognese takes only about 45 minutes with minimal effort.
The same goes for the Cacio e pepe, which is a contender for the most basic Italian dish of them all. Italians actually only make this stuff when they don’t have enough time to make a decent sauce! So, try just making this yourself (it only uses 3 ingredients) and don’t order it at an Italian restaurant.