Eating Out With Toddlers in Italy

In the U.S., I ate out a lot. I hate cooking, so it was easier to let someone else do the cooking. Fast forward to life in Italy, I eat at home much more than I eat out. The whole logistics of eating out are different from in the states.

“What could be that different about eating out in Italy?” You may ask yourself.

Well, let me explain some of the things that make eating out difficult for my family.

Restaurants serve the evening meal later than in the United States. My kiddos are hungry by 5:30 PM (or 17:30 if you use the 24 hour clock). Italian restaurants do not typically open for the evening until 7 or 7:30 PM.  If you are lucky enough to find a restaurant open, it will not typically be moving at a normal serving speed until 8 PM or later. So, it can take a looonnngg time between ordering and getting your food.

This may fly well with adults. Hey, just have an extra glass of prosecco while you wait. With toddlers…not so much. Not to mention, at my house, bedtime is around 8 PM. Behavior is not so great when I have exhausted kids. Even with an elementary aged kiddo, it is too late to eat out on a weeknight.

Most eating establishments do not have high-chairs or booster chairs. I dare you to try containing a wiggly toddler on a regular chair or on your lap. Probably not going to happen.

My solution was to buy one of those seats that attach to the table for my little one. Most times this solution works pretty well. Occasionally, the table is an odd size and the chair does not fit. It is a definite must-have for those families with small children in my book.

Often, there are no kids menus. If you order for your children, they have the same menu choices as you. The prices are the same, as well. Drinks are full price and milk is not always an option. Bring your own.

Luckily, almost every restaurant has pizza. The pizza is usually fairly reasonably priced and you can split one pizza between several children to save on cost. We usually order pasta and ask for an extra plate.   Bread sticks are almost always out on tables, which are great to keep a toddler munching with no  cost.

If you love to eat out, plan ahead and make up an eating out kit. Bring a bag with your baby seat, books or small toys and a plastic sippy cup. Eating out will prove much easier if you do!

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5 Comments on “Eating Out With Toddlers in Italy”

  1. Mel says:

    Hi Berni. I am an Italian-American, born and raised in Vicenza. It is true kids eat and stay up later here than in the States. And adults eat much later too. (At our house 9 pm is the average dinner time). Children are taught from very early on to eat what the adults eat. No Italian mom wants to have to make separate meals. As Peg mentioned, it is common to ask for plainer versions of food and half-portions for children when eating out. Unless you have really bad luck, the waitstaff will gladly accommodate you.
    Milk is hard to find at dinner because to Italians it is not something one drinks with any meal after breakfast, unless still sucking out of a bottle. Small children drink water. Even juice is more of a breakfast or snack drink, and not really table-appropriate. It doesn’t really go well with the flavors of a meal.
    I know it is difficult to adjust to new cultural habits, but isn’t that half the fun in the end?
    (Recently almost got stuck minus dinner in Ireland because apparently there no one serves meals AFTER 7:30 pm. Crazy! 🙂 )

  2. Berni Hanley says:

    Hi Peg, I am compiling a list of restaurants that open around 6 or 630pm in the Vicenza area. Do you know of any? I still have to confirm the hours of the ones I”m tracking. We like to eat out early with or without the kids when we have a babysitter…
    Hotel Giada
    Pizzeria Dieci Giugno
    Righettis
    Sette Santi
    Ristorante Orientale
    Angolo Palladio
    Antica Malvasia
    Al Paradiso

    • Peg Crippen says:

      Hi Berni! I love that you are coming up with a list of restaurants that open early here. I really don’t have any to add to the list. I’d love to hear more myself, then I can do a post on it. Eating out late is just something I wasn’t used to before Italy! If I hear of any I will let you know!

  3. Dana says:

    It does take a bit to adjust to the differences. I have a tip for you — though there is not a published kid menu in most places, it is commonplace to ask for “kid-friendly” meals, including smaller portion sizes. Often, the cost is much less. Offerings not listed on the menu generally include pasta with fresh tomato sauce or ragu (meat sauce), or the simple white with cheese and olive oil. These are always available, even if you don’t see them on the adult menu. Note, this may not be the case in a pizzeria. Generally fresh fruit (even when not listed on the menu) is available as well. I have always been able to get milk, again, even when not listed on the menu. If there is coffee service at the restaurant, then there is milk. We have found this to hold true in most parts of Italy. Just ask. We’ve also been able to ask for a half-portion of pasta dishes that appear on the menu. Most places will do it for you.

    How would you ever know? I don’t know how I discovered all of this . . . we’ve just learned through experience here and there.

    Ciao,
    Dana

    • Peg Crippen says:

      Dana, Thank you for sharing that tip! The greatest thing about starting this blog is that everyone helps me learn so much more about living in Italy. I appreciate that you have shared this with me. I will try it next time I go out to eat!


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