Giada De Laurentiis' Tip For Making A Restaurant Reservation In Italy

For those who love Italian cuisine, celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis is an endless source of inspiration and information on how to cook everything from arancini to zucchini. But the extent of her knowledge on all things Italian isn't limited to recipes for your home kitchen — she has also been known to share her advice on how to make the most out of a trip to Italy. 

And when it comes to making a dinner reservation in the country, De Laurentiis has a big insider tip: Call early and eat late. For the best experience, she suggests to phone the restaurant between 6 and 7 p.m. and ask for a table at or after 8 o'clock.

De Laurentiis points out that early evening is the best time for calling a restaurant because the staff are most likely in the building, but not yet overwhelmed with customers. Many dining establishments in Italy close for a period before dinner service and they often do not have a person dedicated to taking reservations, so you may need to call several times before you are able to reach someone, though the 6-7 p.m. window is typically a sweet spot for a response.

Additional tips for how to best dine in Italy

Eating dinner at 8 o'clock might sound late, but Giada De Laurentiis recommends delaying your final meal of the day until this time for the most authentic experience in Italy. In general, Italians eat dinner later than Americans, so if you make a reservation for the early evening, you may find yourself alone in the restaurant — or surrounded by foreigners. 

If you're able to hold out a while, you'll be able to enjoy the unique, convivial atmosphere of an Italian restaurant filled with locals speaking the language and ordering regional specialities from the menu. De Laurentiis also notes that Italians are more likely to use military time, so don't be surprised if your reservation is confirmed for 20:00.

Once you finally sit down to dinner, keep in mind that restaurant service runs differently in Italy. Your servers may not check in on you as often as you're used to and you'll need to ask for your bill when you're ready to leave. This is not because the staff is slow or inattentive — they are simply giving you the space to leisurely savor your meal.

Giada De Laurentiis' advice on ordering food in Italy

Once you have successfully made your dinner reservation and taken your seat at the table, Giada De Laurentiis also has some advice on how to approach the menu, including foods that are not to be missed and others that are best to avoid. Among the latter are certain pasta dishes De Laurentiis will never order at a restaurant, such as lemon spaghetti and pasta al pomodoro (with tomato sauce). These simple dishes are easy enough to make at home, so De Laurentiis advocates for more complex options — especially pasta in unusual shapes that you won't find elsewhere.

Italy's capital city is one of De Laurentiis' favorite food destinations. If you're lucky enough to find yourself there, don't miss the chance to order what De Laurentiis eats the moment she lands in Rome: a pizza bianca with mortadella. This Roman classic isn't your typical pizza, but you won't mind that it looks more like a sandwich once you bite into the crispy, well-oiled bread and layers of thinly-sliced meat.