How to Spot a Fake Italian Restaurant When Eating Out

Great food is one of the joys of life. After all, everyone has to eat! While the world is full of amazing cuisine, when it comes to delicious dishes, it’s hard to beat an authentic Italian restaurant. There’s just something special about Italian food, especially with a master chef in the kitchen.  

But how can you know whether or not your favorite New York pizza and pasta spot is authentically Italian? You’ve come to the right place for answers.

This article offers tips on what to look for to get the most authentic Italian cuisine possible. Keep reading to get the inside scoop!

how to spot a fake Italian restaurant
Image by Markus Distelrath from Pixabay.

1. Garlic bread

Let’s start with the basics: Italians aren’t as crazy about garlic bread as you might have learned from the movies. The crunchy garlic bread you’re likely familiar with is more of an American thing.

Italians prefer to keep things simple. That means keeping the garlic they add to bread at a minimum. They’ll rub on a bit of garlic, and then soak the bread in extra virgin olive oil. This is known in the old country as Bruschetta Aglio e olio. It’s healthy and simple, and oh so delicious!  

But what about all the butter that you love? In reality, a true Italian restaurant will leave the butter off. After all, it might taste great, but traditional Italian bread prep is so much tastier and less of a mess.

how to spot a fake Italian restaurant
Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay.

2. Red and white checkered table cloths

Does your favorite Italian eatery feature cute checkered table cloths? If so, it’s unlikely that you’ll be eating authentic old country cuisine tonight. A red and white checkered table cloth on your table is a huge red flag.  

This is simply another American misrepresentation of the Italian dining experience. While it’s not clear when this American custom started or why, most traditional Italian restaurant owners would never dream of making this cultural blunder.  

Image by Restaurant Nuovo Antica Roma, Wittenbergplatz 5 from Pixabay.

3. Tacky Italian decorations

The next thing to consider when looking for authentic Italian dining is the decor. There is a tendency in America to decorate in a rather cheesy fashion. This is obviously an attempt to convince diners that they are in old-world Italy. And yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Examples of tacky decor might include such things as Italian flags, or photos of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  

Restaurants with genuine Italian roots will focus on food rather than decor. They won’t waste time trying to sell you an image. That’s because their sole priority is to serve you the finest food possible.

So if the place around the corner screams Dean Martin movie! you can bet that it’s merely an impersonator.

Image by Restaurant Nuovo Antica Roma, Wittenbergplatz 5 from Pixabay.

4. The staff is extremely polite

This might sound like a bit of a generalization, and perhaps it is, but the waiting staff at most authentic Italian food establishments typically won’t go out of their way to be super nice to you. And don’t expect them to speak English.  

That’s because most employees will be Italian, and their culture is slightly different from what you’re probably used to. Don’t take it personally. They are passionate people, and in their world, the customer isn’t king. It’s all about the food, and respect, so just focus on enjoying one of the best meals of your life and don’t expect to be treated like royalty. That doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t glad you’re there, but you shouldn’t arrive expecting them to roll out the red carpet.      

Authentic Carbonara | How to spot a fake Italian restaurant
Image by takedahrs from Pixabay.

5. Carbonara with cream

Here is another serious red flag. The simple truth is that carbonara with cream is a big no-no in Italian culture. The key is to cook the pasta al dente, then cook bacon in a separate pan until crispy.

Next, whisk some eggs, pouring both the bacon and raw eggs onto the pasta, adding some black pepper, salt, and grated pecorino cheese to top things off.  

The key to this recipe is the partially cooked eggs, which provides delicious creaminess. No cream needed! Thus if you see carbonara with cream on the menu, it’s time to run for the door!  

If you’re looking for a great Italian food dining experience, restaurants such as Il Buco Barrie are hard to beat.      

Image by Luke Lawreszuk from

6. Located on a highway or other main road

Need another red flag to watch for? If the restaurant is located anywhere near a main road, it’s an imposter.

Authentic Italians will always choose out of the way spots. After all, there’s nothing more romantic than dining at an amazing restaurant that feels like a secret discovery that only you know about.  

7. Free Wifi

Should you expect free Wifi? Nope. In fact, just the thought of an authentic Italian eatery offering a modern convenience like internet service to customers is absolutely laughable.  

Again, Italians focus on food. They want to provide an experience that will dazzle the senses, not have you distracted by your mobile devices.      

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay.

8. Huge portions

It’s important to keep in mind that Americans have become accustomed to giant portions. They want a bargain.

Italians have a different concept. Their goal is to provide the optimal dining experience, offering diners the right portion for the right price. They are far more interested in focusing on quality rather than dumping huge piles of food on your plate.  

9. Celebrity photos on the wall

Celebrity photos on the wall? Nope. This is a myth created by Hollywood.  

10. It’s big and empty

A core philosophy of Italian culture is “waste not, want not”. That’s why you’ll never see an authentic Italian joint the size of a warehouse. They’d prefer fewer tables filled with happy guests rather than acres of empty tables.

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Daniela Frendo

Daniela Frendo

Hi! I'm a Maltese blogger based in Scotland. I created Grumpy Camel to help travellers connect with places through culture, history and cuisine.

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  1. I didn’t realize that garlic bread was more of an American thing. We are going to Italy next year, and I would like to try some authentic food before we go, so I can get the feel for it. I will have to keep these thoughts in mind as we search for the right ones.

    1. They don’t do garlic bread in Italy and you don’t eat salad on the same plate as any pasta fish,including lasagne,even the bruschetta mentioned above is not served with pasta, if you ask for bread it means the portion was to small

      1. Meant dish not fish


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