Skip to main content


Italy has its own meal structure, which usually consist of 5 courses. Not every meal must serve every course, but most Italians do. If you want to serve a traditional Italian dinner, here are the parts you need:

A traditional Italian meal starts with something to nibble on, called an antipasto, which translates into English as “before the meal.”

In Italy, pasta is a first course, or primo, served as an appetizer, not as the main event.

The main course is called il secondo, or the second course. Chicken, meat, or fish are the usual choices, and portions are generally small.

A platter of vegetables usually accompanies the main course. This side dish highlights the simple goodness of the vegetable. The word contorno loosely translates as “contours” and refers to the fact that the vegetable course helps shape and defines the meal.

A dolce (or sweet) ends a traditional Italian meal.