Whether is for an intimate dinner or trendy brunch NYC, Italian is my go-to cuisine. I have been to countless Italian restaurants in the city, but I have a few favorites. These are the places where I often bring visiting friends, especially those are yet to discover why Italy is paradise food foodies. Many of them are clueless on what to order. If you also feel the same, read on and I will share some of the essentials that you have to order.

Prix Fixe

When you see this word in the menu, this means that the meal is already inclusive of several courses at a fixed price. It often includes three courses, depending on where you are eating. This is good for those who would like to save money. In Scarpetta, my favorite Italian restaurant in New York, when you order prix fixe, you can choose three courses, including a dessert.

Antipasti

This is their version of appetizer. In English, antipasti literally mean before the meal. This is a good way to start the meal, but it should not be too heavy, especially if you are a light eater. For those who are health-conscious, salad can prove to be a fool-proof option. Cheeses and cured meats will also be great if you do not want greens. Bruschetta, or toasted bread with toppings, will also be a delicious way to get started.

Primo

This is the first course in an Italian meal. This can include soup, pasta, and rice. For me, I always go for soup. Pasta feels too heavy, especially because there is still a second course. If you like traditional Italian soups, try ribollita, a Tuscan dish that contains bread and vegetables.

Secondo

This is the second course, which often involves meat. For weight watchers, they skip the second course and stick only to primo. Meat, fish, and vegetables are the most popular options. This is the heaviest part of the meal, so be sure to still have room in your appetite.

Contorni

If you dine in a traditional Italian restaurant, you will notice that the primo and secondo do not come with sides. You will have to order them separately. For contorni, some of the most popular choices include sautéed vegetables and mashed potatoes, especially if you are having steak for the second course.

Dolci 

A meal will never be complete if you do not end it with a sweet treat. Dolci is basically the Italian version of desserts. Some of the best Italian desserts to order include gelato, tiramisu, panna cotta, and cannoli. When you see torte in the menu, this means cakes. On the other hand, when you see dolci al cucchiao, they are basically soft desserts that will require a spoon to be eaten.

The next time you dine in an Italian restaurant, keep in mind the things that have been mentioned above to enjoy a filling meal that will surely make you come back!