Ask an Italian: What Do Italians Eat for Dinner?

Every week, Francesco Serra, our good friend and expert on all things Italian, gives us perspective on Italian culture. Residing in the northern city of Padova, but being a fiercely proud native Calabrian, he brings a unique perspective on all things Italian.
spaghetti and tomatoes
Image: FotoRita.

Our question today for Francesco....I am always curious what Italians actually eat for dinner. Is it the big spreads of food that we always see on TV or is that just for special occasions? What did you eat for dinner last night?

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I think there's much difference between italian food and other countries', and that's proved by what dieticians define "Mediterranean diet", which in the end is what Italians eat. Even if here in Europe we've got wrong stereotypes of Americans eating only french fries and hot-dogs, you don't have to be misled by the opposite of Italians eating only nouvelle cuisine food: here we have our bad ones too ;-) Just think that, even if pizza is one of the most famous Italian dishes, it's not one of the healthiest, as you can't eat it daily or too many times a week, since it would result in a slow and heavy digestion.

Anyway, for dinner Italians usually have what they have for lunch (not the same food but the same kind of food), as we have pasta or meat or veggies or fish indifferently at noon or at night. Just to understand: for dinner last night I had passato di verdure and spinacine, but this night I will have a good ol' dish of pasta! :-)

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I always had the impression that the perception of Italian cuisine outside of Italy is limited to pasta, pizza, and other carb-based meals. While I love pasta and I could live of pizza alone, we Italians have a lot of meat dishes, vegetables, and lots of other yummy stuff :-)