Food and Drink Culture

South Tyrol’s culinary side unites influences from the sun-spoiled south and down-to-earth aspects of the Alpine north. The food is distinguished by many years of self-reliance and rural practices. The mercurial history of South Tyrol has resulted in a distinctive eating and drinking culture. An overview is available here, including tips about how, where, and what to eat in South Tyrol. We also recommend several South Tyrolean dishes you must definitely try on holiday. 

What and where?
The majority of South Tyroleans consider lunch to be the main meal of the day. At the majority of hotels, a plentiful buffet will be available for breakfast. Locals often make do with cappuccino and a brioche pastry on the way to work. In rural areas, bread, butter and jams are usually laid out on the table. A full meal in restaurants consists of antipasti (cold or warm savoury starters), ‘primi piatti’ (first course, often pasta), ‘secondi piatti’ (second course, a dish of meat or fish) and ‘dolce’ (dessert) and coffee as a finishing touch. Lunch is normally served between 12 and 2 pm, whilst dinner is normally available starting from 6 or 7 pm.

Wine at every elevation
Wine culture has a long history in South Tyrol and dinner is typically complemented by outstanding local wines. Even between meals people often meet to enjoy an aperitif. Hugo is popular in South Tyrol, a mixed drink consisting of elderflower syrup, mint, and sparkling or white wine. People here prefer to enjoy their wines with nothing added. The desire to thin wine with mineral water or to use ice cubes is a mystery to most South Tyroleans. Most appreciate the quality of a good wine. Available wines are usually selected to complement the respective dish being served or the time of day. Dry wine is always available. White wine is often consumed before noon, whilst red wine is enjoyed afterwards.

Classic and typical dishes
Dumplings, available in a variety of types including smoked ham, spinach, beetroot, or cheese, are an absolute classic of South Tyrolean cuisine. They are served in soup, as a starter, pressed, cooked or fried. Schlutzkrapfen, a pasta dish filled with spinach and covered in butter, is a dish often served as a first course which you really must try. Barley soup is primarily found on the menus of rural restaurants. The thick soup contains barley grain and bacon. Traditional sweet temptations include buckwheat cake, apple strudel and apple pastries. Savoury Tirtlan pastries and other deep fried delicacies are also often served in rural establishments. This primarily Austrian-style cuisine has been strongly influenced by Italian nuances. As a result, pizza, pasta, dumplings, and risotto are available on the menus of many restaurants. In recent years, many outstanding chefs have taken South Tyrolean cuisine to a very high level, as the especially high concentration of Michelin-star and Gault-Millau restaurants can attest.

Good to know – how to eat and drink like a real South Tyrolean

  • In Italy, cappuccino is only consumed before noon. By midday, caffè espresso or caffè macchiato are the preferred choices.The coffee-to-go culture has yet to truly arrive in South Tyrol. If one only has a few moments to spare then coffee is consumed at the counter. This is called ‘Caffè al banco’.
  • Dumplings are not cut with a knife so that the sauce is better absorbed. Additionally, the use of a knife would signify that the dumplings are too hard.
  • Whether or not a spoon should or may be used to eat spaghetti is somewhat controversial. For many, the use of a fork is a matter of fact.
  • Noodles are not consumed as a side dish in South Tyrol with the exception of Schupfnudeln (finger-shaped potato dumplings).
  • Ever heard of ‘Bis’ or ‘Tris’? In South Tyrol, ‘Bis’ is understood to be the selection of two different warm starters. A small portion of each is served. ‘Tris’ is a mix of three different dishes and is often served in bistros, bars and ski huts.
  • The correct way to cut smoked ham is an art form in South Tyrol.