The Common Request At American Restaurants That Will Drive Italian Servers Up The Wall

It's safe to say that Italian food is up there when it comes to most people's favorite, with the cuisine occupying the third spot on the list of popular "ethnic cuisines" in America, according a study conducted by Chef's Pencil. Because whether you're filling up on pizza, tucking into a hearty bowl of pasta, or soaking up a medley of flavors with a plate of risotto, there's no denying that Italian food typically reigns supreme no matter what you choose to eat.

However, despite what certain foodies might be used to doing while ordering food at an Italian restaurant in the U.S., there's one common mistake that's strongly frowned upon once you visit the real deal. And while in the U.S., some diners are used to servers and restaurants quickly accommodating to their every whim, the reality is that things don't necessarily work that way in Italy.

So, what's one of the worst mistakes you can make during your trip to Italy? Asking the server to make any substitutions or changes to your dish. Basically, it's the equivalent of insulting the chef's expertise — and a big no-no that's oftentimes considered disrespectful and ungracious.

When in Italy, never ask for a substitution

Picture this: You invite someone over to your house and, as soon as they cross through the door, they start making changes to your decor. They ask to move a chair here, change where a painting is hanging there, and even shuffle around family portraits because they think "It looks better this way." You'd be outraged, right? Well ... that's exactly how an Italian chef feels when you ask to swap one ingredient in replacement of another.

But why exactly is it such a big deal to ask for changes? Because in most cases, certain meals and dishes are prepared in line with culinary traditions — using recipes that have been passed down generation to generation — and even taking into account seasonality and availability. All in all, a dish is made a certain way because the chef, who's the real expert here, knows that it needs to be that way in order for it to taste its best. Anything you want to add or remove might eventually take away from the experience and potentially bring down the flavors.

However, there is one occasion when it's acceptable to ask the waiter for a substitution, and that's in case of a severe allergy to certain ingredients. Only then should you feel comfortable enough to ask the restaurant staff if there's anything they or the chef can do to accommodate your needs.

More Italian dining quirks to keep in mind

Italy, much like other destinations around the world, has its own set of traditions and quirks when it comes to food. On one hand, there is a long list of meals (like spaghetti with meatballs) that, albeit common in the U.S., aren't something you'll want to order while dining at a local restaurant — unless you're prepared for a side of quiet judgment courtesy of your waiter. As an alternative, embrace the culture and order a meal with fresh, local ingredients.

Additionally, another cardinal sin of dining in Italy is pairing the wrong drink with the wrong meal. For example, locals would never order a spritz (or any other cocktail, really) with their meal. Instead, the popular drink is typically reserved as an aperitivo, along with a light snack, before your main meal. The same goes for trying to order a cappuccino anytime after lunch or dinner. In order to blend in, you'll want to save the milk-heavy drinks for breakfast unless you want to be ignored and mocked by your waiter — all in good spirits, of course!


In case you didnt know the unwritten Italian rule: no cappuccino after 11 am. I tried to order it in a few other places and it didn't work😅 So keep it in mind when you will be in Italy🇮🇹 It's not just about the coffee; it's a cultural tradition ingrained in their daily rhythm, reserving the creamy indulgence for breakfast hours☕ #travellife #italianlifestyle #italianproblem #italy #italiansummer #travel #traveling #traveltips

♬ Che La Luna – Louis Prima

Other don'ts of dining in Italy include never adding cheese to your seafood pasta, asking for a spoon if you're eating spaghetti, demanding tap water instead of bottled, requesting a side of sauce for your pizza crust, or ordering a speciality from the wrong region.