All Thing Are Just a Little Different… Part II

When we first moved here, we noticed that while many things are very much the same as the States… there are also many, many subtle (and not so subtle) differences.  Early on, I did a quick post about things being different HERE but I didn’t go into many of the specifics.

Now that we’ve been here a while, it makes sense to go a bit deeper.  You know, the kind of “hard-hitting journalism” you’ve come to expect here at Sipping Espresso.  For this post we’ve focused on some of the differences that we find particularly charming, beneficial or just plain better.  So here we go…

♠♣♥♦     ♠♣♥♦     ♠♣♥♦

RESTAURANTS

Let’s start with the food.  If you’ve been a follower of this blog for a while (or read more than one post), you’ll notice that many things here are cuisine related.  This in itself is something amazing, but not an entry.  Regarding food/eating, I’m referring to:

Get it while it’s hot!  In the States, it is polite to eat only when all the food has arrived at the table.  This means most of your dishes have been baking under a heat lamp anywhere from 5 – 10 minutes while your buddy-with-no-taste-bud’s extra well-done steak continues to char.  Here, the food arrives at the table just after it’s been cooked – and it’s meant to be enjoyed that way.  You can eat when the food arrives – in fact, people might think your pazzo (crazy) if you sit and let your food get cold.  Admittedly, this takes some getting used to – but it makes all the sense in the world.

Gnocci Castelmagno and Papparadelle Cinghiale
This dish would lose texture/flavor quickly if allowed to get cold

Help decide for me!  Most restaurants (from the ordinary to the high-end) feature a pre-fix lunch menu, or Menu del Giorno (Menu of the Day).  They are usually between $10 – $12 and often feature a first course, a second course, a half-liter of wine, sparkling water and a coffee.  Not a bad deal!
Menu of the Day at Il Solito Posto

Waiter – where’s the bill?!  Since waiters are paid fair wages here, tipping is not necessary and usually only for service above and beyond.  This should probably stand alone as an entry – but there’s an extra benefit.  There is no pressure to “turn over” a table.  If you want to sit and enjoy your espresso, your gelato or just your conversation – feel free to stay put.  In fact, most places don’t even “drop the bill”.  Rather, you get up when you are ready and pay on your way out.

Where’s the Burger King?  You can ask in English or Italian – you’ll get the same confused look.  Fast food joints are not prevalent, in fact – they’re almost nonexistent.  McDonalds has made some headway in the past decade (to the pleasure of the younger generation and chagrin of the old-school), but they are few and far between.  In fact, we find it humorous that if you see a sign for a McDonald’s – it is not just off the next exit.  It’s probably the closest one and still 15 miles away.  This has obvious health benefits on the country as a whole.  Furthermore, it cultivates a healthy relationship with food.  Food is meant to be healthy, fresh and enjoyed slowly.

Wine, wine and more wine!  Unless you live in wine country, USA – you can’t imagine how nice it is to be surrounded by such love of wine.  This means it is readily available, delicious and affordable.  Our grocery stores have huge aisles dedicated only to wine, often on sale at deep discounts.  Just the other day, when I was spending time with Franco and we stopped to talk to a group of his friends.  I thought I understood someone to say that they were “waiting for it to rain wine” which didn’t make sense to me.  I was sure I misunderstood until a truck pulled up.  Franco explained that this truck came from Venito, loaded with wine for sale.  These guys were literally buying 100 liter quantities to store in their homes.  I’m presently trying to convince Franco to split 50 liters with me on the next truck that rolls into town!

Some wonderful Italian wines
Our favorite day – WINE MEGA SALE day!
Can you say, “kid in candy store”

FINANCE

This next section is finance related.  While I’m getting crushed on the exchange from dollars to euro’s, and the Italians pay an incredibly high amount of taxes (you think you had it bad?!) – there are a few things that I love here as it relates to their finances.

The price is, what the price is!  OK, the tax is in there somewhere – but restaurants, merchants, stores and everyone else marks a price and lo and beyond… it’s final!  There are no extras, taxes or tips (see above) required.  You don’t have to calculate the tax or wait for someone to do for you.  You just pull out your fourteen euro’s and pay… fourteen euro’s (as opposed to $14.84).  Now that’s a relief.

You can’t fool me!  At home, we love the .99 cent trick.  Or the $990 dollar trick.  As in, “I only paid $8 bucks for this thing” when in reality it was $8.99 plus tax.  I admit, it has a purpose – but it is a bit deceitful to consumers and can sometimes be annoying when figuring out what you are really paying.  Instead of $9.99 – it will be marked as an honest $10.  I find this very refreshing.

No €9.99 here!

How do you say Fort Knox in Italian?!  Their security for banking is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.  After I opened my account, I was given an online security key fob.  This device generates one of my three pin codes I need to login online.  You press the button and it generates a random code that you have limited time to enter, thus guaranteeing the utmost in online security.  Furthermore, if you wish to make a purchase online – you can enter the amount you wish to authorize and even the merchant you plan to do business with.  You will be given an randomly generated 16-digit number that can be entered one time (for the amount specified) as opposed to entering your actual card number.  So internet thieves, go right ahead and steal my credit card number – it won’t be good ever again.

Can’t hack into my online account!
Stay away Western Union – I go where I want!  Because the Euro is adopted as the central currency for the European Union, we can cross the border into France, Spain, Germany and many more without having to worry about changing bills and getting killed on commissions.*  Incidentally, please use Western Union… for some stupid reason, I’m a stockholder.

I have more change than an 80 year old woman!

*I promised this would be a positive post – but I do have to add one additional note here.  I’m not crazy about the actual currency itself (blame the E.U… not Italy).  Their monopoly money consists of bills of different sizes and tons of coins (€1 coin, €2 coin, etc).  This results in many bills falling on the floor as I rush through the checkout line and a pocket that sounds like a Mexican mariachi band as I chink-chink down the street.

♠♣♥♦     ♠♣♥♦     ♠♣♥♦

I’ve got many more to go, but this already turned out to be longer than I realized.  I feel it is a good time to break in the series and continue with a “All Things Are a Little Different… Parte Tre” (Part Three) soon.  Ciao for now!
Pick Your Own Lobster?? Pfffff - That's Nothing!!
Eating On Top Of The World

Please let me know your thoughts!