Much confusion exists in countries abroad when dishes are arranged in varying sequences on an Italian Menu. This confusion is caused not merely by celebrity chefs but also by so-called Italian restaurateurs. No has ever explained the correct sequence of what must be eaten first and what must follow. So what are the correct opinions on a traditional Italian menu?
You could decide to have a starter and a first course, or a starter and a second course, with a side dish if you so wish.
A starter and a “piatto unico” is another possibility. A “piatto unico” is a substantial dish that takes the place of both the first and second course. In fact, this is the only instance when a first and second course is served together. It is also possible to have just a first course or second course and then go straight to selection of cheeses or to the dessert.
Let me try and clarify this: Firstly, the “main course” does not really exist in Italian Cuisine. A few “second” course such as “carpaccio” or “veal tonnè” may be used as starters if they are served in small portions.
Starters, or “antipasti”, can consist of meat, fish, vegetables, or cheeses and can be either hot or cold. Soups can be made from vegetables, fish or meat. First courses are usually pasta, either served with a sauce or as a broth. Instead of the usual pasta, first courses can consist of risotto, gnocchi or polenta. Second courses can be meat, fish, or vegetables.
Accompaniments can be cooked vegetables, salads or pulses. There are followed by cheeses, desserts and fruits. No good Italian meal would be complete without grappa, herb, liqueurs, distilled spirits and espresso coffee. The question “ single or double?” should not be asked thought – an espresso coffee is simply an espresso coffee. It is possible however to order a double espresso in a big cup – that is two espresso coffees served in a cup which is a little bigger than an espresso cup. It does not mean double the quantity of water.
Once these essential basics have been established, it is possible to start preparing an italian meal and devise the menu correctly.
Photo credits by Silvia Cicchi
Drawn from Fettuccine Alfredo, Spaghetti Bolognaise & Caesar Salad by Maurizio Pelli.
For info: The Culinary Clinic by Maurizio Pelli.