Food preferences

An Italian kitchen

An Italian kitchen

  • Food is very important to Italians, and culturally appropriate food is essential to their quality of life.
  • Some Italians might observe religious/cultural customs particularly within Catholic teachings.
  • The ability to prepare their own food is very important as is the sharing of food at meal times.
  • Before meals, some Italians might pray or cross themselves and will almost always wish everyone “Buon appetito”- Enjoy your meal.

Food is very important to Italians, and is a core value in Italian culture. It is also very important for Italians to share their meal with family and friends and are therefore reluctant to eat alone. It is seen as a way of keeping a family together.

There is much pride associated with the ability to prepare one’s food and once that ability is gone an older Italian is more likely to ask for assistance. It is the last bastion of independence. Preferred foods are pasta, soups, broths, fish, meat, salads and fruits. However, there are many regional differences in food preferences with Italians from the south eating more fish, pasta  and a mediteranean cuisine whilst those  from the north enjoy more soups, ‘minestrone’, dairy based foods and polenta and risotto.  Most older Italians will have a preference for the food from their region.

Older Italians enjoy a glass of red wine with their meal and always end the meal with a piece of fruit. Many also enjoy an authentic espresso coffee after the meal. In Australia, Italians will typically have their main meal at dinner time, which might be a three course meal (e.g. pasta followed by a second course of meat/fish and salad, which is then followed by fruit). They tend to have an early dinner in order for digestion to occur prior to sleep.

Sunday traditionally was seen as the day the family and extended family would gather to share in a feast usually at the grandparents’ home. All the traditional Italian dishes would be prepared by the women e.g. gnocchi, lasagne, etc. Nowadays, due to time constraints, this tradition may not be followed but would still be nostalgically missed by older Italians.

Some Italians might abide by some religious/cultural customs e.g. not eating meat on Fridays or abstain from eating certain food during the religious time of Lent before Easter. Some people might say a prayer before mealtimes and might even consider that throwing away extra bread is a sin. Food and the sharing of food are almost sacred to Italians.