Eating low-carb at an Italian restaurant is not always easy. Depending on the restaurant, many dishes contain pasta, breading, or heavy sauces with hidden sugar and flour.
You can eat low-carb at most Italian restaurants by sticking with grilled and not breaded meat or seafood. Choose steamed vegetables as your side dish and opt for a salad with oil and vinegar dressing.
Here are the top 11 lowest carb options you can order at Italian restaurants. We’ll show you what to say so that you can modify your dish appropriately.
Salsiccia alla Cacciatore
When eating out at an Italian restaurant, check out the “antipasti” section. This area usually includes meats, cheese, and vegetables.
Salsiccia alla Cacciatore is a dish that features Italian-style sausage, herbs (such as fennel), and low-carb veggies, such as red onion and bell pepper covered with marinara sauce.
It’s usually served as an appetizer, but you can enjoy this as your primary meal. Be sure there are no starchy ingredients served with this dish, such as beans, pasta, polenta, or bread.
What to order: the Salsiccia alla Cacciatore without any bread, pasta, or beans that may accompany the dish.
Gamberi alla Piccata
This dish includes shrimp, lemon, capers, garlic, butter, and tomatoes. You may also be able to get it with chicken instead of shrimp, but make sure it isn’t breaded.
This is a good dish to get as long as it does not come with pasta, polenta, or bread.
Some restaurants serve this as an appetizer. However, you can order it as part of your main dish if desired.
What to order: the Gamberi alla Piccata. Hold any pasta or bread that comes with the dish.
Salmone alla Piccata
This dish is usually served as an entree at most Italian restaurants. It may also be listed on the menu as something simpler, such as grilled herbed salmon. You can also find this dish at chain restaurants such as Olive Garden.
It usually comes with grilled or planked salmon, a lemon garlic herb butter sauce, artichokes, capers, and a low-carb vegetable, such as broccoli or asparagus.
This dish may also include a starch, such as potatoes, beans or rice. Be sure to hold these if you see them on the menu.
If given the choice of soup or salad before your meal, go with a salad without the croutons. Ask for olive oil and vinegar dressing.
What to order: the Salmone alla Piccata or grilled herbed salmon. Be sure to order this with a steam, low-carb veggies, such as asparagus or broccoli. Hold any rice or bread that comes with the dish and opt for a side salad with oil and vinegar if offered before your meal.
Costilla Corta di Manzo
This dish features braised beef short ribs. It usually comes with some type of sauce and a vegetable.
You can keep it low-carb by asking to hold the sauce or reduction that comes on the beef. Also, opt for steam asparagus or broccoli as your vegetable and hold any starchy ingredients that come with the dish, such as potatoes, rice, or bread.
This dish will likely come with soup or salad. Ask for a house salad without croutons and oil and vinegar dressing.
What to order: the Costilla Corta di Manzo or beef short ribs minus the sauce, bread, pasta, rice, or potatoes that come with the dish. Ask for a steamed, low-carb veggie such as broccoli or asparagus and a side house salad without croutons in oil and vinegar dressing.
Costolette di Agnello
Lamb chops are the primary ingredient in this dish. It will usually come with some type of sauce on the lambs. It will also be served with a vegetable, a starch, and soup or salad.
You can make this dish low-carb by asking to hold the sauce on the lamb chops. Ask for garlic herb butter instead. Also, ask for steamed broccoli or asparagus and hold the bread, rice, or potato that comes as a side.
What to order: the Costolette di Agnello or lamb chops without the sauce and a low-carb, steamed veggie, such as broccoli. Hold the starch (rice, potatoes, or bread) and opt for a side house salad without croutons and oil and vinegar dressing.
New York Strip Steak or Ribeye
Most Italian restaurants will offer some kind of steak or beef dish. These are good options on a low-carb diet as long as they are served with garlic herb butter instead of BBQ sauce or something that contains sugar.
You can choose from smaller steaks, such as 6 or 8 ounces, or larger ones, such as 16 or 24 ounces. No matter the size, most beef will contain 0 grams of carbs.
Be sure your steak is served with a low-carb vegetable, such as steamed broccoli or grilled asparagus. Hold the potato, rice, and bread that comes with the dish and go with a side house salad without croutons and oil and vinegar as dressing.
What to order: a steak or ribeye with garlic herb butter, steamed vegetables, and a side salad without any croutons and oil and vinegar dressing. Hold the bread, potatoes, and rice.
Zucchini Noodles Pasta
Italian restaurants probably won’t stop serving regular pasta anytime soon as it’s one of their staple dishes. However, many now offer a low-carb version by using zucchini noodles.
You can request that many of your favorite regular pasta dishes be made with zucchini noodles instead. Go with one that contains chicken or beef (non-breaded), low-carb vegetables, like tomatoes and onions, and a low-carb sauce, such as marinara, pesto, or alfredo.
What to order: a zucchini noodle pasta dish made with non-breaded meat and marinara, pesto, or alfredo sauce. Hold the breadsticks and opt for a side salad with oil and vinegar dressing (no croutons).
Most Italian restaurants serve an antipasto salad that contains mixed greens, salami, pepperoncini, capicola, mortadella, various other Italian meats, tomatoes, onions, olives, and cheese in an oil and vinegar dressing.
You should not have to make many modifications to this salad if you’re eating at an authentic Italian restaurant. Some chains might toss this salad in Italian dressing, which contains sugar and will need to be swapped out.
What to order: an antipasto salad with red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing.
A Caesar salad is a low-carb staple on most menus at Italian restaurants. It contains romaine lettuce, parmigiana cheese, croutons, and Caesar dressing.
You can keep this dish low-carb by asking for no croutons. This is the same rule that applies when eating out. By excluding croutons and other bakery products, you’ll significantly reduce the total carbs. Add grilled seafood or meat as your protein choice and hold any breadsticks that accompany the dish.
What to order: a Caesar salad minus the croutons with non-breaded chicken, steak, or seafood.
A Caprese salad is another staple at most Italian restaurants. It contains slices of fresh Mozzarella and tomatoes seasoned with basil, arugula, and olive oil.
You can order this salad as is. However, you’ll want to make sure it’s not drizzled with a sugary glaze. Ask for your salad to be topped with olive oil and red wine vinegar only.
What to order: the Caprese salad with olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing.
Mussels can be a great low-carb appetizer as long as they are not breaded and fried. You will also want to make sure you don’t indulge in the bread that usually accompanies this dish.
Sometimes, it is served with marinara sauce. This is an acceptable low-carb sauce.
What to order: the mussels appetizer dish as long as they are not breaded. Hold any bread that comes with it.
You can eat low-carb at most Italian restaurants by avoiding the pasta dishes and opting for grilled meat and low-carb vegetables, such as steamed spinach, broccoli, or asparagus.
Most Italian restaurants serve steak, which you can get with low-carb sides. You can also order an antipasto, Caprese, or Caesar salad (minus the croutons) and ask for olive oil and vinegar dressing.
Some Italian restaurants may also serve zucchini noodles. This is a good way to turn your favorite traditional pasta dish low-carb. Stick with water, coffee, or unsweetened tea as your beverage.
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