A sandwich with ham and cheese during your lunchbreak is no biggie. But a pranzo in Puglia is a little more complicated. Are you invited for a family lunch or dinner in Puglia? No worries, we’ve got you covered with our 10 don’ts of eating with Italians.
1. Never say no
The first rule when you are a guest at a lunch or dinner in a Apulian household: never say ‘no’. Nonna will not accepted this and will simply act as if she didn’t hear you and mama will enthusiastically go back to the cucina to prepare the next course. So, even though you were barely able to finish the antipasti and your primo… keep on eating. Yes, we know… eating with Italians is hard.
2. Don’t ask questions
Asking questions about food is useless.
“Is this provolone very spicy?”
“No, amore, not at all”
Or, at most “No no, tranquillo, just a little.”
Oh dio, so spicy!! But you HAVE to eat it. And say it’s delicious.
A family meal in Puglia is actually sort of an match. In almost all families there is one record holder. He or she finishes everything. But literally EVERYTHING. Every plate is a round and when the plate is finished, points can be earned. In case more than one person finishes his or her plate; the plate will be cleaned with a piece of bread. So, there will always be a winner! Are you ready to play?
4. Pre-packages products are forbidden
If you really want to upset your mother-in-law, put a can of – it basically doesn’t matter what – on the table. For a real Pugliese, taralli from the supermarket do not exist. Neither do olives or focaccia. So be careful, very careful…
5. Don’t leave the table before the espresso is served
According to Apulian science, it is not possible to change the order of certain courses. In Puglia, you finish dinner with a (homemade) limoncello. Children under 18 can leave the table at this point. Are you a big boy or girl, you politely say “yes” (check point 1) when a limoncello is offered. After the coffee, which is the very last step of the often endless amount of food and drinks, you can leave the table. Stand up carefully…
6. Eating panzarotto
A true resident of Puglia has no problem eating panzerotto (stuffed and fried mini pizzas) and makes it seem like you are just biting into it and you don’t need any expertise. Poor you, all eyes will be on you – tourist – when you try to eat this Italian specialty. No worries, here’s how you do it: put your head forward and bite with clenched teeth. Pull back like a bulldog without using your lips. This is to prevent third-degree burns. Keep in mind that it is important to keep your new shirt clean. Go for it!
7. “Raw fish with lemon, what?”
Lemon is an essential ingredient in many Apulian dishes. But not in combination with raw fish, according to the Pugliesi. Never ask for some lemon (because you think that destroys the parasites in the fish) for your raw mussels, squid or prawns. Because if you do, it will immediately become clear to the hosts that you are not worthy to sit at their table. Pugliesi love a little risk. And above all, “the lemon is ruining the taste of the expensive fish!” OK check.
8. Compliments to the cook
This step is very important: immediately after your first bite, the cook will wait for your verdict. Take advantage of this awe that you will experience only a few times in your life and do not hesitate to compliment the cook. But beware, they are able to distinguish “real” from “fake” compliments. So no “I think I’ve never tasted anything so delicious” or “even my grandmother doesn’t cook so well”.
9. “Il Brindisi”
In other words, the toast. No dinner is started without a “brindisi” (making a toast). This is “a moment of catharsis”. Don’t forget to look everyone in the eye, one by one. Not doing this is seen as an insult and comes with the question of whether you are from Milan.
10. Refuse a drink
There is no abstinence in Puglia. A nice glass of Primitivo (local red wine) heals all evil and “fa tanto sangue” (does a lot of blood) – nobody understands what that actually means … In short, prepare to go home somewhat tipsy.