04/18/2012 08:25 am ET Updated Aug 27, 2012

Decoding Italy's Menu Mysteries

The search for common ground between food lovers and weight-watchers, bargain-seekers and luxury-lovers ends in the most unlikely place: Italy. The country has reached the end of the reign of culinary extremists like chef Elena Fabrizi, whose restaurant sign on Rome's Isola Tiberina commanded non solo primi (no first courses only) as mercilessly as any emperor's edict at an ancient Roman bacchanal. Tourist menus may still try to convince novices that pasta, mains and dessert are essential to the Italian restaurant experience, but Italians are no longer buying the three-course mandate.

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