Can you stick to your diet in an Italian restaurant? Most Americans think of heavy southern Italian food when they think of high-calorie items: meatballs, eggplant Parmigiana, veal Parmigiana, and lasagna. However, the food of northern Italy, while it may appear less caloric, also has its detractors: butter, olive oil, and cream.

Portions are overly generous in most Italian restaurants, so if you are dieting, this may be a good place for sharing — particularly important when you consider that an antipasto of cheese, marinated vegetables, salami, and garlic bread can use up a day’s calorie budget before the main course arrives.

Bread on the table served with butter or olive oil can be a diet buster. Ask for tomato sauce for dipping if you must fill up on bread and have the fats removed. Or better yet, out of sight, out of mouth; have the bread removed, too. Order vegetables à la carte as long as they’re not cooked with plenty of fat or deep-fried. And instead of a creamy dessert, order a lowfat cappuccino with fruit.

Choose more of these:

  • Light red sauce

  • Marinara sauce

  • Pasta (other than those stuffed with cheese)

  • Piccata (lemon-wine sauce)

  • White or red clam sauce (but ask the wait staff; some clam sauces are made with cream)

  • Wine sauce

Eat less of these:

  • Alfredo

  • Alla panna (with cream)

  • Butter

  • Carbonara (butter, eggs, bacon, and sometimes cream sauce)

  • Fried eggplant or zucchini

  • Frito misto (fried mixed vegetables or seafood)

  • Olive oil

  • Parmigiana (baked in sauce with cheese)

  • Prosciutto

  • Salami