First Dates Hotel’s Francesca the dos and don’ts of dining like an Italian

The restaurant manager says you should drink a glass of wine a day – but never order spag bol

Francesca doesn't really wear the same pink shirt every day

Francesca Martusciello didn’t expect to have a cameo in First Dates Hotel, but she and maitre d’ Fred clicked on day one.

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Martusciello really is the hotel’s restaurant manager and Fred is also the real deal, she says.

“If you have a problem, if a guest has a problem, he understands quickly everything. Even with closed eyes he can understand.”

She promises the show is authentic as well. “Everything is true. It is not created. They meet for the first time in the restaurant and sometimes I can feel the fire.”

How about a Francesca and Fred spin-off? “Oh yes! We can go around Italy and see what’s happening in hotels. Me and Fred in charge of hotels!”

In the meantime, she explains the dos and don’ts of dining next time you’re off to Italy for a romantic weekend…


How to dine like an Italian (according to Francesca)

Do start small

“We like to have a simple breakfast: a croissant and coffee.”

Don’t order a cappuccino after 10am – order espresso

“The espresso is very important. It’s time for yourself or it’s an excuse to have five minutes with your friend. It should be served in a very hot cup. Your lips should feel the burn. That does not sound good but believe me it is a good experience!”

Do order an aperitif – or three

“In Naples, we like to have an aperitivo at midday. And maybe we have another aperitivo before a coffee at four o’clock, and maybe we might have another apertivo before dinner.”

The most popular aperitif is Aperol Spritz “with olives, nuts and little crunchy potatoes – this is a good pairing.”

Don’t drink on an empty stomach

“We always have food with wine. For example, we have a staff get together after work, we bring formaggio, salami, bruschetta and share a bottle of wine. It’s one of our favourite things to do in Italy: share our time with friends, wine and food.”

Don’t expect a big bowl of pasta

“It’s typical to have antipasto – cured meats, olives, cheese – for the first course, then a small bowl of pasta, meat and finally dessert. So it’s a big meal but not in big quantities.”

…or to see spaghetti bolognese on the menu in Campania

“Here in this region we have ragout. It’s a slow-cooked tomato sauce with a mix of different meats because every type gives the sauce some taste.

“It’s what we eat on Sundays. My grandmother would start it on Saturday and wake up throughout the night to stir it. And while it was cooking, she would make tagliatelle. We would never eat it with spaghetti.”

…or a creamy carbonara

“No!!!! Carbonara is eggs and pancetta. No cream!”

Do skip the champagne and drink the local wine instead

“In Italy, we have a saying: A glass of wine a day, keeps the doctor away.

“The best thing to do is to discover the local wine. In this  area the most famous grapes are Aglianico, Falanghina, Barbera, Greco. A bottle of Falanghina can be better than the most expensive Champagne if it is shared with the right person.”

Naples is the birthplace of pizza, but don’t order a Hawaiian or a Meat Feast…

“The most popular pizzas are marinara, which is with tomato and garlic, and mozzarella with tomato, olive oil and basil. No meat and never pineapple! Mamma Mia!”

Got the midnight munchies? Don’t order a kebab. Make pasta.

“Also very typical is what we call midnight pasta, which is spaghetti, garlic and olive oil – spaghetti aglio olio.”

First Dates Hotel is on Mondays on Channel 4 at 10pm

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