Scarpetta: Italian Eating Customs

pasta on white plate on focus photo

The Italian word “scarpetta,” literally translates to “little shoe,” however the colloquial meaning has nothing to do with shoes and everything to do with savoring every last drop of sauce on ones plate. Are you feeling a little confused? I don’t blame you! But listen up and thank me later for introducing this genius technique into your dining routine.

“Fare la scarpetta” means “to do the scarpetta,” which is the act of tearing off a piece of bread and using that to wipe the plate clean, then eat the bread which is now smothered in the remaining sauce. This is a common practice in Italian cuisine, and many Italians believe that it is a way to savor every last bit of the delicious sauce. In the United States we attack that basket of bread before we even order our meals, but in Italy, they don’t eat the bread until they have their meal in front of them and the bread is used as a tool to get all the sauce from plate to mouth, instead of used as a pre-meal filler with boring old butter on it.

The bread is perfect for soaking up the sauce, creating a delicious combination of flavors. It is customary to use a plain white bread or a bread that does not have a strong flavor to avoid overpowering the sauce’s taste.

While the origin of the word “scarpetta” is unclear, it is a common practice in Italian households and restaurants. Some Italians believe that it is impolite to leave any sauce on your plate and that the “scarpetta” is a way to show appreciation for the dish’s flavors.

The “scarpetta” is a unique Italian dining tradition that demonstrates the country’s love for food and its emphasis on savoring every last bit of a delicious meal, and a tradition I am all for keeping alive!

Other Italian Dining Traditions

Italian dining traditions are often steeped in history and cultural significance. Here are a few more unique Italian dining traditions that you may find interesting:

  1. Aperitivo: Aperitivo is a popular Italian tradition that involves having a drink and a small snack before dinner. It is typically held around 6-8 pm and is a great way to socialize with friends and family.
  2. Il Dolce: In Italy, dessert is not always served after the main course. Instead, it is often enjoyed after a coffee or a digestif. The dessert course is called “il dolce,” which translates to “the sweet.”
  3. Il Caffè: Coffee is an essential part of Italian culture, and ordering coffee is a ritual in itself. For example, if you order a cappuccino after breakfast, it may be seen as unusual since cappuccino is traditionally considered a breakfast beverage. It is also common to stand at the bar to drink coffee rather than sit at a table.
  4. Il Pane: Bread is an important part of Italian cuisine, and it is often served alongside a meal. However, it is considered impolite to eat bread before the meal arrives, as it may spoil your appetite. Remember, it’s used to Fare la scarpetta!
  5. Il Primo e il Secondo: In a traditional Italian meal, there are typically two courses: il primo (the first course) and il secondo (the second course). Il primo usually consists of a pasta dish or a soup, while il secondo is a meat or fish dish.
  6. Digestivo: A digestivo is a drink that is typically consumed after a meal to aid digestion. Common digestivos include limoncello, grappa, and amaro.

Italian dining traditions are varied and diverse, and they add to the country’s rich culinary heritage. Whether it’s enjoying a pre-dinner aperitivo, savoring a dessert with a coffee, or mopping up sauce with bread, these traditions offer a glimpse into the Italian way of life.

Contact us to start planning your dream vacation in Italy so you can practice the Scarpetta and enjoy a wonderful apertivo.

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