ROME STREET SCENE A+  CNTXQ – We will be leaving shortly for a culinary tour of southern Italy. Are there any “proper manners” we should be aware of as we dine out?

A – Try not to ask the owner if he or any member of his family is involved with the Mafia. This could possibly ruin your meal.

The biggest “gaffe” is ordering cappuccino after 12:00 noon. Italians have a deep-seated belief that only infants and morning “Cappo” drinkers should indulge in milk.  The proper course of action is to always order an espresso at the end of dinner. This will assure that you remain awake for the following three days.

Do not think about adding Parmesan cheese to your dish after it is served. If it is a good idea, and deemed appropriate, the waiter will offer to grate some atop your dish.  Italians tend to like fish relatively unadorned. Don’t add cheese to any fish dish.

Have low expectations for salads in Northern Italy. Rustic Italians aren’t big on salad as a main course.

And, of course, understand that pasta is a mere introduction to the main course, the primo piatti or “first plate”. This is not the same as an appetizer which actually comes before the first plate. The Entrée, which is substantially smaller than portions in our at-home Italian restaurants, features a meat, chicken, or fish preparation.

Italians, as a rule, go to their favorite bar for a stand-up breakfast of cappuccino and a pastry. Only tourists order ham and eggs. To an Italian, breakfast is merely light calisthenics in preparation for lunch.

Never, ever ask for a “doggy bag” for leftovers. Italians think this is a uniquely barbaric American practice. No need to carry food back to your hotel. In Italy, good food will always be available – fear not. The Panini’s at the autostrade rest stops are even memorable. But never eat in your car. No respectable Italian would risk getting crumbs on the leather.

It is considered a bit “American” to order a gelato at the end of a meal. One earns a Gelato by walking in the slow dance through the village or the city that every Italian loves. In the restaurant, it is most appropriate to end the meal with some fresh fruit. Italians at other tables will sometimes stare at you as they find the American tourists inability to properly peel an orange rather entertaining.