As soon as you are seated, remove the napkin from your place setting, unfold it, and put it in your lap. Do not shake it open. At some very formal restaurants, the waiter may do this for the diners, but it is not inappropriate to place your own napkin in your lap, even when this is the case.
The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal. Don't clean the cutlery or wipe your face with the napkin. NEVER use it to wipe your nose!
If you excuse yourself from the table, loosely fold the napkin and place it to the left or right of your plate. Do not refold your napkin or wad it up on the table either. Never place your napkin on your chair.
At the end of the meal, leave the napkin loosely folded at the left side of the place setting. It should not be crumpled or twisted; nor should it be folded. The napkin must also not be left on the plate and never on the chair.
How to use your silverware and dinnerware:
Here's the Silverware and dinnerware rule:
Eat to your left, drink to your right. Any food dish to the left is yours, and any glass to the right is yours.
Starting with the knife, fork, or spoon that is farthest from your plate, work your way in, using one utensil for each course. The salad fork is on your outermost left, followed by your dinner fork. Your soup spoon is on your outermost right, followed by your beverage spoon, salad knife and dinner knife. Your dessert spoon and fork are above your plate or brought out with dessert. If you remember the rule to work from the outside in, you'll be fine.
Use one of two methods when using the fork and knife:
American Style: Knife in right hand, fork in left hand holding food. After a few bite-sized pieces of food are cut, place knife on edge of plate with blades facing in. Eat food by switching fork to right hand (unless you are left handed). A left hand, arm or elbow on the table is bad manners.
Continental/European Style: Knife in right hand, fork in left hand. Eat food with fork still in left hand. The difference is that you don't switch hands-you eat with your fork in your left hand, with the prongs curving downward. Both utensils are kept in your hands with the tines pointed down throughout the entire eating process. If you take a drink, you do not just put your knife down, you put both utensils down into the resting position: cross the fork over the knife.
Once used, your utensils, including the handles, must not touch the table again. Always rest forks, knives, and spoons on the side of your plate.
For more formal dinners, from course to course, your tableware will be taken away and replaced as needed.
To signal that your are done with the course, rest your fork, tines up, and knife blade in, with the handles resting at five o'clock an tips pointing to ten o'clock on your plate.
Any unused silverware is simply left on the table.
Pass food from the left to the right. Do not stretch across the table, crossing other guests, to reach food or condiments.
If asked for the salt or pepper, pass both together, even if a table mate asks for only one of them. This is so dinner guests won't have to search for orphaned shakers.
Never intercept a pass. Snagging a roll out of the breadbasket or taking a shake of salt when it is en route to someone else is a no-no.
Always use serving utensils to serve yourself, not your personal silverware.
Wait until all are served at your table before beginning to eat.
Do NOT talk with food in your mouth! This is very rude and distasteful to watch! Wait until you have swallowed the food in your mouth. Chew with mouth closed.
Don't blow on your food/soup to cool it off. If it is too hot to eat, take the hint and wait until it cools. If hot food is burning your mouth, discretely drink something cool to counteract the food.
Always scoop food, using the proper utensil, away from you.
Cut only enough food for the next mouthful (cut no more than two bites of food at a time). Eat in small bites and slowly.
Never lick of put the knife in your mouth
Do eat a little of everything on your plate. If you do not like the food and feel unable to give a compliment, just keep silent. It is acceptable to leave some food on your plate if you are full and have eaten enough.
Do not "play with" your food or utensils. Never wave or point silverware. Do not hold food on the fork or spoon while talking, nor wave your silverware in the air or point with it.
Try to pace your eating so that you don’t finish before others are halfway through. If you are a slow eater, try to speed up a bit on this occasion so you don’t hold everyone up.
Once used, your utensils, including the handles, must not touch the table again. Always rest forks, knives, and spoons on the side of your plate or in the bowl.
If the food served is not to your liking, it is polite to at least attempt to eat a small amount of it.
Or at the very least, cut it up a little and move it around the plate. It is never acceptable to ask a person why they have not eaten all the food. Don't make an issue if you don't like something or can't eat it - keep silence.
Practice good posture & keep elbows off the table. Keep your left hand in your lap or rest your wrists on the edge of the table unless you are using it.
Taste your food before seasoning it.
Guests should do their best to mingle and make light conversation with everyone. Do not talk excessively loudly. Give others equal opportunities for conversation. Talk about cheerful, pleasant things at the table.
Don't clean up spills with your own napkin and don't touch items that have dropped on the floor. You can use your napkin to protect yourself from spills. Then, simply and politely ask your server to clean up and to bring you a replacement for the soiled napkin or dirty utensil.
Loud eating noises (slurping and burping) are very impolite. The number one sin of dinner table etiquette!
Do not blow your nose at the dinner table. Excuse yourself to visit the restroom. Wash your hands before returning to the dining room. If you cough, cover your mouth with your napkin to stop the spread of germs and muffle the noise. If your cough becomes unmanageable, excuse yourself to visit the restroom. Wash your hands before returning to the dining room.
Turn off your cell phone or switch it to silent or vibrate mode before sitting down to eat, and leave it in your pocket or purse. It is impolite to answer a phone during dinner. If you must make or take a call, excuse yourself from the table and step outside of the restaurant.
Do not use a toothpick or apply makeup at the table.
Say "Excuse me," or "I'll be right back," before leaving the table. Do not say that you are going to the restroom.
Whenever a woman leaves the table or returns to sit, all men seated with her should stand up.
Do not push your dishes away from you or stack them for the waiter when you are finished. Leave plates and glasses where they are.
Do not ask for a doggy bag unless it is an informal dining situation.
Bacon can be consider finger food if it is dry, crisp and served whole.
If bacon is broken into pieces, served in thick slices, or cooked but still limp, it should be eaten with a knife and fork. The rule is simply that bacon with any fat on it should be eaten with a knife and fork.
Berries: Generally, eat berries with a spoon, whether they have cream on them or not.
Use your fingers to remove bread from the serving plate. When a bread and butter plate is on the table to your left, you should use your butter knife to transfer a small portion of butter onto the side of this plate. This step can be skipped altogether and the bread buttered directly.
Return your knife to its correct position on the bread and butter plate (the right hand side of the plate, lying along the 1 to 5 o'clock position (i.e. slightly off-center), the tip facing 1 o'clock).
Next, break off a small, SINGLE bite-size portion of the bread (never larger than one bite), and butter this portion with the butter transferred to your plate in the earlier step. Buttering should be done on the plate or just above it, and never butter the whole piece of bread.
If there is an oil condiment for the bread (olive oil for example), the same principles apply - always tearing off small bite-size portions of the bread and applying (can dip) your oil to that bite size piece of bread.
Break slices of bread in small pieces never larger than one bite & never eat bread that has not been broken off first. Butter each bite at a time.
Use your own butter knife and the butter on your plate; buttering should be done on the plate or just above it. Never butter the whole piece of bread. The butter knife remains on the bread and butter plate at the end of the meal.
It once was acceptable to pick up food on a bone, such as chicken, if it could be held with two fingers. I don't recommend that you do this in a public setting.
When dining at the restaurant or in a public place, chicken should always be eaten with a fork and knife.
If you are at an informal barbecue, in the fast food restaurant where you bought the chicken, and/or at your own home, it is perfectly acceptable to eat chicken with your fingers.
Clams and oysters in the half shell: Hold the shell with the left hand and lift the clam out using your oyster fork.
Soft desserts: In general, eat custards and other very soft desserts with a spoon, using the fork for berries or any other garnishes. Cake, pie, or crepes being served ala mode - i.e., with ice cream - may be eaten with either or both of the utensils.
Firm desserts: For firmer desserts such as dense cakes or poached pears, switch the utensils - the fork for eating, the spoon for pushing and cutting.
In a fine dining restaurant, use your knife and forks.
Pasta or Spaghetti:
The perfect method for eating spaghetti or other long stringy pasta is to twirl it around your fork. Use a spoon to help if needed.
It is also acceptable to cut pasta with a knife and fork. You can get some leverage by turning the pasta while holding the tines of your fork against the edge of your plate. It's even correct to neatly cut the pasta if twirling is too hard.
What is undeniably bad manners is slurping in a mouthful of trailing pasta without benefit of twirl or knife. It's often loud, and it's never pretty.
If possible, serve warm pasta in warm, shallow bowls instead of on dinner plates. The sides of the bowl aids in turning pasta noodles on the fork.
If you are served large pieces or a whole wedge of lettuce, cut one bite at a time, using the knife provided.
If the salad is served before or after the main course, use the smaller fork. If the salad is considered the main course, use the entrée fork (large fork).
Dip the spoon into the soup, moving it away from the body, until it is about two-thirds full, then sip the liquid (without slurping) from the side of the spoon (without inserting the whole bowl of the spoon into the mouth).
It is perfectly fine to tilt the bowl slightly (again away from the body) to get the last spoonful or two of soup.
To eat bread while eating your soup, don't hold the bread in one hand and your soup spoon in the other. When ready to eat a bite of your bread, place the spoon on the under plate, then use the same hand to take the bread to your mouth.
Never turn the glass upside down to decline wine. It is more polite to let the wine be poured and not draw attention to yourself. If you are asked about wine and will not be drinking, quietly decline.