Let’s Go Out for… Italian

Whether you’re at the local pizza parlor or a white-napkin establishment with a famous chef, here’s how to mangia bene.
What To EatLets Go Out For

Let’s take an unflinching look at the menu and learn what you’re really consuming when you visit Luigi’s. The below lineup of common Italian restaurant dishes is a realistic example — in both preparation and portion size — of what your server might bring out of the kitchen. The tips in this guide will let you lighten up these dishes (and their popular cousins) while keeping them hearty and tasty. Here’s to relishing real Italian, while toasting “Salute” — To health!

Caprese Salad
Caprese Salad
This antipasto is simply a plate of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, often with olive oil, pepper, or balsamic vinegar. It can be a good starter — if you go easy on the cheese and oil. Fresh mozzarella clocks in at 2 PointsPlus® values per ounce. For a typical restaurant portion, you’ll be looking at about 6 PointsPlus values in cheese. Lighten it up: If you’re going to have cheese with your entrée, consider having a peppery arugula salad with balsamic vinegar and tomatoes (0 PointsPlus values) to start.
Fritto Misto
Fritto Misto
This appetizer contains breaded and fried chunks of cod, scallop, shrimp and squid, and it’s obviously a dangerous choice. It’s popularly interpreted as fried calamari, a crunchy treat that eats up 11 PointsPlus values in a mere half cup. Worse, it sometimes comes with aioli dipping sauce (4 tablespoons can contain 200 calories). Lighten it up: If you crave a nibble, order this as a shared appetizer, and dip in with marinara instead of aioli. Better yet, order grilled calamari as an app (just 1 PointsPlus value per half cup).
Pappardelle Bolognese
Pappardelle Bolognese
This authentic Bolognese dish has tomato sauce made with bits of pork, veal and beef. Typical restaurant servings (about 12-ounces of pasta and 1 cup of sauce) run about 18 PointsPlus values. The same portion of its grandkid, spaghetti and meatballs (created in America, where meat was cheaper) runs about 24 PointsPlus values per typical serving. Lighten it up: Switch to pasta with marinara sauce and order a small piece of chicken, pork or veal with it. “With a separate piece of meat, you can see the portion and trim the fat,” says Dobbins. And consider ordering whole-wheat pasta when available; it has more fiber and will save you 1 PointsPlus value per cup (4 versus 5).
Tortelloni al Ricotta
Tortelloni alla Ricotta
Stuffed pastas like ravioli and tortelloni (tortellini’s big sister) are usually filled with ricotta cheese or meat; either will cost you 4 PointsPlus values per 2/3 cup, and a typical restaurant portion of 3 cups can run 18 PointsPlus values. The sauce on these dishes can vary. Lighten it up: “Avoid Alfredo and pesto sauce,” says Dobbins; marinara is a lighter choice. Or consider asking for broth instead ("en brodo"). You’ll have a delicious, authentic dish and could save 3 PointsPlus values over the marinara.
Risotto with Mushrooms
Risotto with Mushrooms
Risotto is cooked slowly to attain a creamy consistency, but many chefs also add butter and cheese to make it even creamer. Hence, just 1 cup can contain 12 PointsPlus values — and a typical restaurant serving can run 2 cups. Lighten it up: Order risotto with olive oil and just a pat of butter; it can trim off 3 PointsPlus values. Mushrooms are a great choice for flavoring, as are traditional additions of seafood, squash, peas and saffron. Going with pancetta will add 2 PointsPlus values.
Poletto alla Diavola
Polletto alla Diavola
This grilled young chicken with spicy sauce (from the devil himself, according to its name) is a good choice, according to Dobbins. Grilling helps eliminate some fat, and spicy pepper sauce adds big flavor for relatively few calories. A typical half chicken runs about 16 PointsPlus values. Lighten it up: Removing the skin and getting your sauce on the side may knock it down to about 10 PointsPlus values.
Costoletta alla Milanese
Cotoletta alla Milanese
In this dish, a veal chop (or chicken breast) is pounded thin, then coated with egg and bread crumbs before being sautéed in oil with garlic to a crispy finish. “This is a real splurge,” says Dobbins; the dish shown here can easily top 12 to 15 PointsPlus values. Lighten it up: Instead of Milanese, or the similarly fried “Parmigiana” preparation (about 13 to 16 PointsPlus values), ask the kitchen to grill a veal chop or chicken breast with some herbs, suggests Brandwein. A typical boneless veal chop (about 7 ounces before cooking) runs about 7 PointsPlus values.
Branzino
Branzino
This traditional preparation of whole broiled, baked or grilled sea bass yields just 6 PointsPlus values for both fillets from a 22-oz fish. In one of the tastiest (and healthiest) preparations, the chef encrusts the fish in salt and bakes it. When the salt is cracked and removed before serving, it reveals moist, succulent steamed fish, usually served with a touch of olive oil. Lighten it up: Some restaurants go heavy on oil and butter, so ask for yours on the side. And consider replacing the side of pasta with a vegetable.
Tiramisu
Tiramisu
Made with ladyfinger cookies, mascarpone cheese and cream, this slab of sweetness is the reigning queen of the dessert tray in the Italian-American restaurant. Tiramisu packs 12 PointsPlus values into a small slice, which makes the name’s literal translation (“lift me up”) ironic. Other common Italian sweets are similar: A cannoli will run about 10 PointsPlus values, and a gelato (a creamy, dense ice cream with almost no air) runs about 8 PointsPlus values per half cup. Lighten it up: “If you really want that bite of tiramisu, you’re going to have it, so get one for the table to share,” suggests Dobbins.
Fresh strawberries with balsamic vinegar
Fresh Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar
Want a lighter ending than a pastry or gelato? Take a lesson from the Italians and get your sugar fix from something that has a stem. On the Boot, it’s common to finish off a restaurant meal by enjoying a communal fruit bowl. Request sliced strawberries with balsamic vinegar; the sweet-bitter flavor makes for a memorable meal-ender. A liberal sprinkling of sugar will kick it up only 1 PointsPlus value.
*Given that ingredients, cooking methods, and portion sizes can vary greatly among restaurants, all PointsPlus® values for restaurant dishes are estimates.

Next: Where to Go


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