While the French slave for hours, fussily transforming ingredients into perfect dishes, Italians prefer to use perfect ingredients and let them speak for themselves. Pasta is a staple across the country, eaten as a first course and usually followed by a meat or fish main course. Pizza is a popular, cheap, and cheerful alternative. Italian restaurants will often cap off your meal with limoncello or another homemade digestivo.
Italian wines are among the best in the world and are priced accordingly. But in the wine regions, you can always get a great inexpensive bottle. The best reds—from full-bodied to ephemeral—come from Tuscany (avoid straw-covered bottles of Chianti, which will invariably be bad), Umbria, and Piedmont. If you're celebrating, prosecco (sparkling white wine) is a bargain compared with its French cousin, Champagne.