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Foods Kids Love in Italy

by Barbara Rogers

Oct 1, 2017

Aliaksandr Mazurkevich | Dreamstime

Age Specific / Kids

Dining in a foreign country can be tricky with children who tend to be less than enthusiastic about trying new flavors. But Italy offers three things sure to keep them happy: pizza, pasta and gelato.

Where to Eat

The various names for places to eat can be confusing, and some are more family-friendly than others. This tip sheet can help you sort them out. Menus are almost always posted outside, so you can see what is served and what the prices are before deciding.

  • Pizzaria: Some are take-out only, selling pizza by the slice, while others have tables and table service. They are always casual places where families can feel at home.
  • Trattoria: Also casual and family-friendly places that serve local and Italian dishes.  In large cities a trattoria may be a bit more upscale than in small towns.
  • Osteria: Traditionally this means a casual restaurant serving local food, but in cities this may just be a rustic name for a trendy dining spot — look at the menu to be sure.
  • Restaurant: More upscale and formal than a trattoria, with a more complex menu and often higher prices. Not the best choice for small children.
  • Paninoteca: Serves sandwiches only.
  • Bar: More like our cafes, serving drinks, coffee, breakfast pastries and often sandwiches
  • Café: Usually a little fancier than a bar, and serving cakes, pastries and sandwiches.
  • Tavola calda: Cafeteria style with a selection of hot foods, a good place for kids, who can see each dish before deciding.
  • Pasticceria: Sells pastries and cakes and sweets, often with café tables.
    Mother and daughter eating gelato in Italy

    Mother and daughter eating gelato. Photo: Citalliance | Dreamstime


  • Gelateria: Ice cream shop, sometimes just a display cooler opening to the street. Warning: Italian ice cream is habit-forming, and your kids will soon be able to spot one of these from three blocks away.


What to Order

If your children are like most and reluctant to try unfamiliar foods when traveling, they’re in luck in Italy, where every dinner menu offers spaghetti or other pastas. These are listed under “Primi” near the top of the menu. Here are some dishes to look for within most kids’ comfort zones.

  • Pasta al Burro: Pasta with butter. Even if it’s not on the menu, you can ask for it.
  • Risotto: Creamy rice cooked in broth, with other ingredients that range from vegetables to shrimp. If your child is mushroom-phobic, avoid risotto (or anything else) with funghi.
  • Pasta Marinara: Pasta with tomato sauce. Italians use a lot less sauce than Americans usually do.
  • Pasta Bolognese or Ragú: The same, but with meat in the tomato sauce.
  • Supplí di riso: Balls of risotto with cheese in the center, coated in crumbs and deep-fried. These are often sold as a snack in bars and on a tavola calda. They are also sometimes called supplì al telefono.
  • Saltimboca: Little rolled slices of veal with ham.
  • Veal Marsala: Tender veal scallops cooked in a sweet wine.
  • Bruschetti: Open-faced toast with a topping.


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