Classic Italian in Denmark

Choosing the restaurant to go to for my ethnography was a difficult choice. Initially, I had wanted to go to Nova because it was around the corner from our DIS housing. We had seen it as we were walking back from class and we had noticed there was a lunch deal from 11 am to 5 pm. However, when Shelby and I were walking towards Nova at around 4:45 pm, we noticed that the restaurant across the way, Ristorante Italiano, smelled delicious, and the food looked better. We quickly looked at the menu, noticed they also had a lunch deal for pasta and pizza, so we asked if the deal would still be available. The waiter quickly looked at his watch and said we could get the deal because we would have 10 minutes until 5 pm. He motioned for us to sit in the outdoor seating, so we sat at a table that was close to two girls, and we noticed that there was also indoor seating. Large umbrellas cover the outdoor seating, there are heaters for the cold nighttime weather, and each seat has a blanket. The tables are placed close together and set up with small plates, napkins, gingham table cloths, an ashtray, seasonings, and oils. The outside is also lined with older pictures of the restaurant, as well as the walls are covered in vines, and fresh flowers hang on the walls and sat on the tables. The restaurant had a romantic and cozy setting for customers to enjoy a nice meal outside.

We quickly decided what we wanted, and I ordered spaghetti with carbonara sauce, and bacon and Shelby ordered cannelloni with ricotta cheese and spinach that was baked in a ceramic dish. Pork is indeed served in many meals, so much so that it was in my meal at this Italian restaurant. Overgaard explained in her article that pork is so prevalent in everyday Danish dishes, that certain Danes are concerned that the traditional meat will be replaced for certain religions that do not eat pork (p. 2). However, it would be narrow-minded to say that pork must be eaten because it is a Danish tradition, there should be options not to have pork in meals if a customer request for there not to be. I do believe that if I had said I could not eat pork at this restaurant, they would have accommodated to my needs and not put it on the dish.

As Shelby and I waited for our meals, we noticed that this restaurant was tourist-friendly because there was a lot of English on the signs, tables, and menus. All the waiters and waitresses spoke English as well, but we found out that most of them are from Italy or Argentina, so occasionally they used Italian phrases such as bon appetit, finita, and grazie. It was interesting because the waiters and waitresses would communicate with each other while working if they needed help or a favor, so it was nice to see them working together since they always looked busy. Since this was a fancier restaurant, they wore a white button-up shirt, black pants, shoes, and an apron. The manager was always walking around the outdoor area and appeared friendly because he was patting customer’s shoulders, shaking hands, and greeting people as they came up to the restaurant. One waiter even walked around singing and for some reason when he saw my pop socket on the table he touched it with his finger and said, “beep beep,” which confused me, but also made me laugh. Overall, we both enjoyed that we were eating Italian food made by people from Italy because we are a lot closer to Italy now than we have ever been.

Their menu, including both English and Italian explanations
Their informative table cover in English

In the outside dining area, there was never anyone eating alone; since it seemed to be a tourist spot, there were mostly middle-aged men and women, a few younger couples, and only a couple families with younger children. There were more women seated than men, and there were many groups of middle-aged women, so it appeared to be a meeting spot for them. The waitress came and gave us a bread basket, but there was nothing to put on the bread. We soon realized that we shared the oil and vinegar with the table next to us, so we asked them if we could use it. I do not think it is normal to interact with other customers at restaurants in Copenhagen because these girls looked at us weird for interrupting their conversation, but politely said we could. As we sat there, eating bread, multiple cars, bikes, and people went by, as well as a shirtless man with a parrot on his shoulder. Many people ate their pizza with a fork and knife. Most of the customers cleaned their plate, which showed that they were all pleased with the space and the taste of the food. We also noticed that no phones were used while eating because they were all talking to each other. Observing families and couples being social was one of the reasons I had wanted to go to a sit-down restaurant, rather than a fast-food restaurant. This is because as Pollan explained Janet Flammang’s views in his article, family meals are becoming increasingly less social with the convenience food movement (p. 10-11). Since this restaurant attracted mostly tourists who were passing by on the street, everyone appeared to enjoy their meal while chatting with those at their table after a long day of sight-seeing.

Ten minutes later, the food arrived. This was the fastest service we had gotten in Denmark at a restaurant so far. Shelby noticed her food was hot, while mine was only warm, but this could have been because hers was baked in a ceramic bowl. My spaghetti had a light, but creamy carbonara sauce, as well as a lot of pepper and bacon. Shelby’s cannelloni seemed like the ricotta and spinach mix was premade, then rolled in the pasta, and baked in the creamy tomato sauce. My food tasted as though it was freshly prepared, and it was delicious. Also, since Americans love ice, we were surprised to notice that they served their drinks with a lot of ice, unlike many of the restaurants we have been to in Denmark. While we ate, there was quiet chatter from everyone around us, but it was not loud and obnoxious as some American restaurants tend to be. Halfway through, a man came and sat down across the street to play music on his guitar that added to the ambiance, and he later came through the tables politely asking for money. The waiters and waitresses were so busy running around helping people or setting tables, that they never came to check on us during the dinner, which is typical of a restaurant in Denmark.

Our Italian pasta dishes

As soon as we finished, a waiter bussed our table. Since it was a tight space, they were quick to spread tables apart to fit in more guests. They were also quick to change the flowers on the tables to candles as it became later at night. They were so fast at everything that I felt the need to get out of there because they were looking at us constantly while we sat and observed. This was something new that I had not experienced in Denmark before because generally, they have left you alone while eating and did not rush you out. When we decided we were done, we caught a server’s attention and requested to have our bill, and we just left the money inside of it on the table. After we paid, we wanted to look inside the restaurant and see the rest of the seating. One of the waiters escorted us throughout the inside, showing us that they could fit 100, 200, and up to 500 customers as the seating continued down the hall and to the basement. Everyone there made it a very welcoming experience, and they were all kind when we spoke to them.  

Their outdoor seating
One part of their indoor seating

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