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RitzyFritz 05-03-2007 04:34 AM

Need help before going out for dinner
My family and I have been invited to dinner this coming Saturday to an Italian restaurant, and I'm hoping for some help. I'm not much on Italian food. The only kind I have eaten are the usual - pizza and spaghetti. We never go out to eat at an Italian restaurant, so I wouldn't even begin to know which sauces are the better choices for those dieting. I personally could do without sauces of any kind, but again, I'm so unfamiliar with Italian restaurants I'm not 100% sure what to even expect on the menu (other than the obvious! LOL)

The place we are going is Zio's (for those of you familiar with them), and they have stated "At this time we do not make our nutritional information available." Basically, their reason was because they make everything from scratch and can custom make any item on the menu to the customers specifications. But, with me not being familiar, how in the world do I know what to ask for? ;) This is where my 3FC friends come in handy (among thousands of other times)!

So, for those of you who love/like this kind of food, what are the healthiest options at an Italian restaurant? I plan on cutting way back during the day to allow for this meal but would prefer to have some tips/ideas before going so as not to eat a whole day's worth of fat/calories in one setting! ;)

Thanks again, friends!! This place is incredible because there are such wonderful folks here! :hug:

rockinrobin 05-03-2007 06:35 AM

Hi Ritzy, I'm not familiar with this restaurant. And I don't eat out much, but when I do I usually just have a salad with no dressing. I'm probably not the best one to answer this question.
The first thing (and possibly the hardest) thing I would do is stay away from the bread basket. If they custom make things, sounds like you're in luck. Why not tell the waiter that you are looking for something with as few calories as possible, maybe he'll be able to steer you in the right direction. Italian restaurants usually have salads. You could have one of those, dressing on the side. Maybe have them make you grilled chicken breast. Ask what sauces are made without oil or cream. Maybe something tomato based. Maybe something with lemon or mushrooms. You might want to order an appetizer and have that as your main course instead. I would just try to steer clear of those cream sauces, marinated oily thngs and breaded/fried things.

Sounds like fun though, enjoy the evening. :)

royalsfan1 05-03-2007 06:55 AM

Hey Ritz...great question!

Being married to an Italian has made me almost an "expert" in Italian cooking AND ordering! I've never heard of Zio's but since you can customize it that's GREAT!

I would suggest you order a lunch size pasta primavera with red sauce. Request that everything be prepared COMPLETELY meatless (I know from experience that even if it doesn't have meat in the sauce, many times the sauce was simmered with neck bones, etc....adds calories you may not wish to see). Anyway, what you'll have just ordered is pasta, red sauce, and tons of vegetables. Also, order a dinner salad with the dressing on the side. If they're honestly making everything from scratch you should be able to eat what I just described for under 600 calories. I'm estimating kind of high because I don't know how much they'll serve you. A 200 calorie portion of pasta is about 1 c. A 200 calorie portion of my meatless red sauce is about 1.5 - 2 c (that's a LOT of sauce). Then you have your veggies, a tad of olive oil, and your little bit of salad dressing (try and dip every other bite instead of pouring it over the top). Stay away from the bread (they will probably have a small plate of olive oil and black pepper or herbs....so good....and so high in cals...it's best to just leave the bread alone entirely). Also, eat around the croutons...they're probably homemade. If you're a person who really enjoys dessert after a special meal out.....Italian restaurants (if they're authentic) will have either a fruit cup or a fruit freeze or a gelato. Any of those would be safer than their cheesecake!

HAVE A GREAT TIME! Concentrate on the conversation and just ignore the food for the most part. Go slowly. Pasta is a QUICK filler so you will be satisfied before you know it!

cottagebythesea 05-03-2007 07:11 AM

Hi, Fritzy! Zio's is a great Italian restaurant, and I think you should be able to find several things you can eat that are fairly low in fat and calories. They have some wonderful salads and a fruit and salad bar, just have your dressing on the side. There are also several entrees that feature broiled meat or fish, with pasta on the side. If you want to avoid the pasta, just ask for an extra serving of veggies instead. Enjoy your meal out, and good luck!

penor 05-03-2007 07:14 AM

I'm not sure what the sauce is called but I know(Italian grandfather) that there is a sauce that is diced tomatoes Olice oil,onions,peppers. It's not a sauce more of a toss. It's very good and I'd imagine pretty healthy. Not getting into the bread is always a huge challange for me.(lol) Enjoy yourself.

nelie 05-03-2007 09:35 AM

I think most people have covered the basics of eating out italian style
- Avoid cream (white) sauces, go for red sauces
- Avoid the bread basket
- At some italian places, you can get grilled veggies and grilled meat as a meal but that doesn't always happen.
- If you get salad, ask for dressing on the side
- Use portion control :)

Mrs Quadcrew 05-03-2007 10:44 AM

Most Italian places are now offering whole wheat pasta too - can't hurt to ask! Have fun and enjoy your evening out!

RitzyFritz 05-03-2007 11:00 AM

Thank you all! :hug: This will help me tremendously. ;)

royalsfan1 05-03-2007 11:08 AM


Originally Posted by Mrs Quadcrew (Post 1679732)
Most Italian places are now offering whole wheat pasta too - can't hurt to ask! Have fun and enjoy your evening out!

I didn't know that. That's awesome! (I haven't been out for Italian in a LONG time!) I look forward to the day when spaghetti sqaush is an option, also. :D Then maybe I'll venture back into the Italian restaurant arena....until then it's TOOOO dangerous for me! I totally overeat the stuff!

Ophelia924 05-03-2007 01:03 PM

The fresh sauce described sounds like a pomodoro sauce. I went to olive garden the other day and got linguine and a grilled chicken breast with pomodoro sauce! I shared my lunch plate with my 2 yo and still brought home about 1/2 of my food. IF this is the fresh sauce it is great. More like a light spaghetti sauce than just fresh items thrown in your pasta!

RitzyFritz 05-03-2007 03:12 PM


Originally Posted by royalsfan1 (Post 1679786)
I didn't know that. That's awesome! (I haven't been out for Italian in a LONG time!) I look forward to the day when spaghetti sqaush is an option, also. :D Then maybe I'll venture back into the Italian restaurant arena....until then it's TOOOO dangerous for me! I totally overeat the stuff!

How funny. I can (and do) do without Italian food with no problem. My weakness is MEXICAN food! I could have it morning, noon, and night and for snacks in-between! :lol: I have done really well since starting my journey in Jan. I have been to a mexican restaurant maybe 5 times since then but each time I did very well. Even still, I know my limits and just stay away as the best precaution against overindulgence. :^:

midwife 05-03-2007 03:32 PM

I'm with you Ritzy. I can take or leave Italian (DH's favorite) but I go nuts for Mexican or New Mexican food. When I make it at home, I can control the calories. There is a fresh New Mexican restaurant near where I work that has grilled fish burritos. With lots of fresh salsa, beans, and lettuce, (I toss the tortilla), it is my favorite place to eat out nowadays.

Good luck at the restaurant! And have fun!

SuchAPrettyFace 05-03-2007 04:35 PM

I am Italian. :) Yeah, that was pomodoro up there. :chef: Ask them if they can put the bruschetta topping over a cup of hot whole wheat pasta for you. :T

I checked out the menu, the strawberry field salad (minus the sugared walnuts) w/dressing on the side looks like a safe bet. Other safe bets (descriptions where I did not see the word Alfredo or butter) Chicken Milanese, Cheese Ravioli on a Nest of Pasta<--that one sounds like 2 meals for the price of one, eat the ravs off the top & take the rest home for lunch tomorrow, you can't go wrong with spaghetti & meatballs, just eat 1 meatball, take the rest home, the other thing that sounds good is Pasta Mia, where you get to say what pasta, what sauce, etc. For built in portion control, there is always the Kids Menu. Sometimes they will let you order off it, you just have to ask.

Something that sounds healthier than it might actually be is the veggie lasagne.

OMG, they have Italian cream cake. It is to be avoided at all costs!!! :rollpin: I owe my arms to that cake.

Cheryl14 05-03-2007 05:04 PM

Eat a BIG salad, enjoy ONE roll or piece of bread S-L-O-W-L-Y with no butter, drink SEVERAL glasses of water, and bring 1/2 of your dinner home with you for the next day. Go easy on the cheese. I usually give most of my cheese to someone in my family BEFORE I start my dinner OR I push it off on the side to share later.

Following these guidelines you can have pretty much whatever you want. I stay away from anything that is fried, though!

If we are going out to dinner, I go easy on my food that day so that I will have about 500-600 calories left for dinner. When my family orders dessert, I usually get coffee. If one of their desserts looks especially delicious, I will ask for a bite of it.

I've been trying to learn ways to keep on plan and also be able to live in the real world of my family of skinny guys who eat A LOT!!! Challenging!

MariaMaria 05-03-2007 05:40 PM

Italian doesn't have to mean massive quantities of pasta and bread. Any decent Italian restaurant will have protein-based dishes (chicken with something, fish of some sort, etc) as well.

Checking the menu you could choose the soup as a meal, or most of the "house specialties". Avoid the cream sauces and ask to substitute something green for starchy sides. Watch portion sizes-- the menu seems to make a big deal of how much food they're giving you.

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