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Eating Out (With a Kid) in Northern Italy and Tuscany

Community Highlights Family Travel Eating Out (With a Kid) in Northern Italy and Tuscany

Before I get into the specifics of where we ate, here are some general observations about eating out in northern Italy and Tuscany.

The first thing I should mention is that the restaurants were welcoming to families. We never got any weird looks because we had a child with us. In lots of places, the staff were really friendly to my daughter, talking to her and trying to make her smile. Overall, we felt just as welcome in the restaurants we visited as in any US restaurant, sometimes even more so.

Courses are ordered a la carte: antipasti (appetizers), primi (first courses, usually pasta dishes), and secondi (second courses, usually meat/seafood dishes). The portions for primi and secondi are a bit smaller than what you'd get if you ordered either as a main dish at a restaurant in the US, but they're not tiny, either. A person would have to be really hungry to get through both a primi and a secondi. Pizzas are usually thin crust and come in just one size: a large personal pizza, about 10 inches. Depending on how hungry you are, you can eat one on your own or share with someone.

Children's menus are rare. I saw only one place that advertised one. A couple of other places saw my daughter and offered to fix her some pasta marinara that wasn't listed on the menu. The rest of the time, we just ordered for her from the regular menu. Sometimes this meant sharing a pizza with her. Sometimes it meant ordering her own pizza or primi--and often sampling what she had. This generally worked out well.

Given the situation with the children's menus, my husband and I generally expected that my daughter would have extra to share, which affected how we ordered. Often we each ordered a primi *or* a secondi, but not both. If we were especially hungry, we might order an antipasto or a third plate (usually a secondi) to share. The waitstaff never made us feel bad about sharing, either.

Many places bring bread/rolls to your table before your food arrives. Whereas in the US this is complimentary, the restaurants we visited often charge you if you take from the basket. You'll see it on the bill listed as pane/coperto (bread/cover). Occasionally, the price is listed on the menu, but not always, and the price can range from 2 euro for the whole table to 2 euro per person. The quality can also vary from prepackaged breadsticks to rolls baked on the premises, and the price and quality don't always match up. In all, you'll want to think carefully before digging into the bread basket.

Restaurants will not bring you tap water unless you ask for it specifically. They will generally try to bring you bottled mineral water instead. Even when we asked for tap water, a couple of places said they didn't do that. Granted, we asked in English, so we may have had more success if we had asked on Italian for acqua del rubinetto.

Gelaterias generally don't have indoor seating. There might be a bench or a small table outside, but that's usually all there is. Sometimes people eat inside standing up, but this can be difficult, especially if it's crowded. This means that if you have a small (aka messy) child, you'll want to strategize about where to consume your gelato with the least disastrous results.

This featured blog entry was written by amikulski from the blog Toddler Travels.
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By amikulski

Posted Wed, Jul 10, 2013 | Italy | Comments