The main characteristic of Italian cooking is its healthy balance, the excellent basic ingredients being simply cooked and retaining their original goodness and freshness. Simple and yet with such a variety of flavors and rich inventiveness in preparation, that even the most demanding gourmet is delighted.
Italian breakfast is quite different from American or English. Colazione is usually light: cappuccino (coffee and milk) and a brioche (sweet pastry), or simply espresso (black-short-strong coffee).
Pranzo (lunch) is the big meal except in the industrialized cities. It consists of antipasto (starter) a primo piatto (pasta, rice or soup), a secondo piatto (meat or fish) with contorno (vegetable or salad), then frutta ( fresh fruit). Finish with espresso and maybe a grappa or amaro (strong digestive liqueur).
Cena (dinner) is similar to lunch. Nowadays there is a tendency of having a light lunch, then dinner becomes the major meal. Gelato (ice-cream) has hundreds of different flavours and can be enjoyed at anytime of the day as well as the granita (crushed ice with flavoured syrup).
There are thousands of ristoranti (restaurants): the most formal type of place to eat when one is not in a hurry, sometimes a little fancy and pricy and family-run; trattoria and osteria : less formal than a ristorante, where local specialties are served; panineria: a sandwich bar, where a quick meal can be had at any time of the day; pizzeria : is not only for pizza lovers!