Italian food may be America's most popular ethnic food choice, according to a 2013 Harris Poll, but it may have failed to import much of Italy's traditional dining etiquette along with its cuisine. It's always a good idea to exercise basic table manners when eating a traditional Italian meal, but there are some additional guidelines that Italians tend to follow as well.

What's in a Meal

A full Italian meal has multiple courses, including an appetizer, soup, a light first course, a main course with side dishes, a salad and a dessert with fruit and drinks. A more relaxed meal includes at least two or three of these courses. Before-dinner cocktails are uncommon in Italy; alcohol is always accompanied by food. Espresso traditionally comes after dessert is over.

Table Manners

Always follow the common rules of politeness when eating a traditional Italian meal, including allowing your host to start eating first and keeping your elbows off the table. When eating long pasta, twirl the noodles onto your fork using the side of your pasta plate, not a spoon, and never cut it into smaller pieces. Always use a knife and fork to pick up pieces of cheese and fruit. Keep your hands visible on top of the table, and signal that you are finished with your meal by putting your knife and fork down side by side on your plate.