Useful Italian phrases and terms for dining

English (Inglese) Italian (Italiano) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is? Dov'é doh-VAY
...a restaurant un ristorante oon rees toh-RAHN-tay
...a casual restaurant una trattoria
oo-nah trah-toar-RHEE-yah
oon ohst-air-EE-yah
I would like to reserve... Vorrei prenotare... voar-RAY pray-note-ARE-eh
a table for two una tavola per due oo-nah TAH-voal-lah pair DOO-way
...for 8pm per le otto pair lay OH-toh
I would like Vorrei... voar-RAY
...some (of) un pó (di) oon POH (dee)
...this questo KWAY-sto
...that quello KWEL-loh
and e ay
...a glass of un bicchiere di oon bee-key-YAIR-eh
...fizzy water acqua gassata AH-kwah gah-SAHT-tah
...still water acqua non gassata AH-kwah noan gah-SAHT-tah wine vino rosso VEE-noh ROH-so
...white wine vino bianco VEE-noh bee-YAHN-koh birra BEER-a
Check, please Il conto, per favore eel COAN-toh pair fah-VOAR-eh
Is the tip included? É incluso il servizio? ay een-CLOU-so eel sair-VEET-zee-yo

Italian food & menu decoder


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  • Acciughe or Alici - Anchovies.
  • Acquacotta - “Cooked water,” a watery vegetable soup thickened with egg and poured over stale bread.
  • Affumicato - Smoked.
  • Agnello - Lamb.
  • Affettati misti - Mix of various salumi (salami, prosciutto, and other cured meats), usually served as an appetizer.
  • Agnolotti - Semi-circular ravioli (often stuffed with meat and cheese together).
  • Ai ferri - Grilled on a ridged metal plate.
  • Al forno - Oven roasted.
  • Al sangue - Rare.
  • All’arrabbiata - Spiked with chili peppers (literally “furious”)
  • Alla boscaiola - ”Woodman style,” usually with mushrooms and ham.
  • Alla griglia/Grigliata - Grilled (over an open fire, usually).
  • Alla Milanese - A meat scallop dipped in egg batter, dredged in flour, coated with bread crumbs, fried, and served with lemon and parsely.
  • Alla pizzaiola - smotheres in tomatoes and mozzarella/
  • Alle brace - Broiled over live coals.
  • Allo spiedo - On a skewer (siskebob).
  • Amaretti - Almond-flavored macaroons.
  • Anatra - Duck.
  • Anguilla - Eels.
  • Antipasti - Appetizers.
  • Aragosta - Lobster.
  • Arrosto - Roasted.


  • Arista di maiale - Roast prok loin, usually served in slices, flavored with rosemary, garlic, and cloves.
  • Baccalà (alla livornese) - Dried, salted codfish (cooked in olive oil, white wine, garlic, and tomatoes).
  • Ben cotto - Well done.
  • Bistecca alla fiorentina - Florentine-style steak, ideally made with Chianina beef, grilled over wood coals and then brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with pepper and salt.
  • Bocconcini - Small veal chunks sauteed in white wine, butter, and herbs. (Also the word for ball-shaped portions of any food, especially mozzarella.)
  • Bollito - Boiled.
  • Bollito misto - Assorted boiled meats.
  • Braciola - Loin pork chop.
  • Branzino - Sea bass.
  • Bresaola - Air-dried, thinly-sliced beef fillet, dressed with olive oil, lemon, and pepper—usually an appetizer.
  • Bruschetta - A slab of peasant bread grilled and then rubbed with garlic, drizzeld with olive oil, and spinkled with salt; often served al pomodoro (with tomatoes).
  • Bucatini - Fat, hollow spaghetti. Classically served all’amatriciana with a spicy hot tomatoe sauce studded with pancetta (bacon).


  • Cacciucco - Seafood stew of Livrono in a spicy tomato base poured over stale bread.
  • Cacio or Caciotto - Southern Tuscan name for pecorino cheese.
  • Calamari - Squid.
  • Calzone - Pizza dough folded with a number of stuffings, ususally cheese and ham, before baking—like a pizza turnover.
  • Cannellini - White beans, the Tuscan’s primary vegetable.
  • Cannelloni - Pasta tubes filled with meat and baked in a suace (cream or tomato). The cheese version is usually called manicotti (although either name may be used for either stuffing).
  • Cantucci - Hard, twice-baked almond cookies, vaguely crescent-shaped and best made in Prato (where they’re known as biscotti di Prato). The generic Italian word for them is biscotti, and the U.S. has picked up the term and subjected the cookie to the Baskin Robbins syndrome (i.e.: now available in dozens of silly flavors and coatings), but in Tuscany, they’re plain and primarily used to dip into vin santo, a dessert wine.
  • Capocollo - Aged sausage make mainly from pork necks.
  • Caprese - A salad of sliced mozarella and tomatoes lightly dressed with olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  • Capretto - Kid.
  • Caprino - Soft goat’s-milk cheese.
  • Carciofi - Artichokes.
  • Carpaccio - Thin slices of raw cured beef, pounded flat and often served topped with arugola and parmigiano shavings.
  • Casalinga - Home cooking.
  • Cavolfiore - Cauliflower.
  • Cavolo - Cabbage.
  • Ceci - Ckickpeas (garbanzo beans).
  • Cervelli - Brains, often served fritti, fried.
  • Cervo - Venison.
  • Cibreo - Stew of chicken livers, cockscombs, and eggs.
  • Cinghiale - Wild boar.
  • Cipolla - Onion.
  • Coniglio - Rabbit.
  • Cotto - Cooked.
  • Cozze - Mussels.
  • Crespelle alla Fiorentina - Thin pancakes wrapped around ricotta and spinach, covered with tomatoes and cheese, and baked in a casserole.
  • Crostini - Small rounds of bread toasted and covered with various pates, most commonly a tasty liver paste (or in Umbria milza, which is spleen).
  • Crudo - Raw.


  • Dentice - Dentex; a fish similar to perch.
  • Disossata - Deboned.


  • Fagioli - Beans, almost always white cannellini beans. Either boiled and served alone on a plate to drizzle with olive oil, all’uccelletto, stewed with tomatoes, garlic, and sage, or al fiasco, cooked with oild an dpepper in a terracotta crock (traditionally, in a Chianti flask). Occasionally, especially in Umbria, you’ll get a kind of green bean when you order fagioli.
  • Faraona - Guinea hen.
  • Farcita - Stuffed.
  • Farro - Emmer, a barley-like grain (often in soups).
  • Fave - Broad fava beans.
  • Fegato - Liver.
  • Foccacia - Like pizza dough with nothing on it, this bready snack is laden with olive-oil, baked in sheets, sprinkled with coarse salt, and eaten in slices plain or split to stuff as a sandwich. In Florence, it’s popularly called schiacciato as well.
  • Fontina - Medium-hard cows-milk cheese.
  • Formaggio - Cheese
  • Frittata - Thick omelet stuffed with meats, cheese, and vegetables; often eaten between slices of bread as a sandwich. In Umbria, they make one al tartufo that’s speckled with black truffles and, when made right, a true delicacy.
  • Fritto - Fried.
  • Fritto misto - A deep-fried mix of meats, often paired with fried artichokes, or seafood.
  • Frutti di mare - A selection of shellfish, often boosted with a couple of shrimp and some squid. You’ll find it garnishing spghetti of offered by itself—steamed or fried—as an inslata (salad).
  • Funghi - Mushrooms.
  • Fusilli - Spiral-shaped pasta; usually long like a telepone cord, not the short maccharoni style.


  • Gamberi (gamberetti) - Prawns (shrimp).
  • Gelato - Heavenly, dense version of ice cream; see the very end of chapter 4 (produzione propria means homemade).
  • Gorgonzola - A soft, creamy blue-veined cheese with a very strong flavor and famsouly overpowering aroma.
  • Gnocchi - Pasta dumplings usually made from potatoes or ricotta and spianch.
  • Granchio - Crab.
  • Granita - Flavored ice; limone (lemon) is the classic.


  • Involtini - Thinly sliced beef or veal rolled with veggies (often celery or artichokes) and simmered in its own juices.
  • In umido - Stewed.


  • Lampreda - Lamprey (an eel-like fish).
  • Lenticchie - Lentil beans; Italy’s best come from Umbria’s eastrn Castellúccio plains.
  • Lepre - Wild hare.
  • Lesso - Boiled.
  • Lombatina di vitello - Loin of veal.


  • Maiale - Pork.
  • Manzo - Beef.
  • Mascarpone - Technically a cheese, but more like heavy cream, already slightly sweet and sweetened more to use in desserts like tiramisú.
  • Melanzana - Eggplant (aubergine).
  • Merluzzo - Cod.
  • Minestrone - A little-bit-of-everything vegetable soup, usually flavored with chunks of cured ham and often swimmign with tiny pasta and topped with grated parmigiano.
  • Mortadella - A mild, very thick pork sausage; the original baloney (because the best comes from Bologna).
  • Mozzarella - A non-fermented cheese, made from the fresh milk of a buffalo (but increasingly these days from a cow), boiled and then kneaded into a rounded ball, served as fresh as possbile.


  • Oca - Goose.
  • Orata - Sea bream.
  • Orecchiette - Small, thick pasta discs.
  • Ossobuco - Beef or veal knuckle braised in wine, butter, garlic, lemon, and rosemary; the marrow is a delicacy. (Nowadays, often spoiled by a tomato sauce.)
  • Ostriche - Oysters.


  • Paglio e fieno - Literally, “hay and straw,” yellow (egg) and green (spinach) tagliatelle mixed together and served with sauce.
  • Pappa al Pomodoro - A bready tomato-pap soup.
  • Pappardelle alle lepre - Very wide noodles in a hare sauce.
  • Pancetta - Salt-cured pork belly, rolled into a cylinder and sliced—the Italian bacon.
  • Panforte - Any of a number of huge, bar-like candies vaguely akin to fruitcake; a dense, flat honey-sweetened mass of nuts, candied fruits, and spices.
  • Panettone - Sweet, yellow cake-like dry bread.
  • Panino - A sandwich.
  • Panna - Cream (either whipped and sweetened for your ice cream or pie; or heavy, unsweetened, and included in the sauce on your pasta).
  • Panzanella - A cold, summery salad made of stael bread soaked in water and vinegar mixed with cubed tomatoes, onion, fresh basil, and olive oil.
  • Parmigiano - Parmesan, a hard, salty cheese usually grated over pastas and soups but also eaten alone; also known as grana.
  • Pecorino - A rich, sheep’s milk cheese, famously made in southern Tuscany (especially around Pienza). In Tuscany it’s eaten fresh and soft; around Rome (and exported) it’s aged and hardened and grated for pasta.
  • Penne strascicate - Hollow pasta quills in a creamy ragu (meat and tomato sauce).
  • Peperonata - Stewed peppers and onions under oil, usually served cold.
  • Peperoni - Green, yellow, or red sweet peppers.
  • Peperoncini - Hot peppers.
  • Peposo - Beef stew with peppercorns.
  • Pesce al cartoccio - Fish baked in a parchment envelope.
  • Pesce spada - Swordfish.
  • Pesto - Green sauce made from basil leaves crushed in a pestle, pecorino cheese, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil.
  • Piccione - Pigeon.
  • Pici or Pinci - A delicious homemade pasta made with just flour, water, and olive oil, rolled in the hands to produce lumpy, thick, chewy spaghetti to which sauce clings. This local name is used around Siena and to its south.
  • Pinzimonio - Olive oil with salt and pepper into which you dip raw vegetables. If the oil is folavored with flavored with garlic and anchovies, it’s called Bagna cauda.
  • Piselli - Peas.
  • Pizza - Comes in two varieties: rustica or a taglio (by the slice), and al frono in a pizzeria (large, round pizzas for dinner with a thin, crispy crust).
    Specific varieties include: margherita (“plain” pizza of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil), napoletana (tomatoes, oregano, mozzarella, and anchovies); capricciosa (a “naughty” combination of prosciutto, artichokes, olives, and sometimes egg or anchovies); and quatro stagione ("four seasons" of fresh vegetables, sometimes also with ham).
  • Polenta - Cornmeal mush, ranging from soupy to a dense, cake-like version related to cornbread; often mixed with mushrooms and other seasonal fillings, served plain alongside game, or sometimes sliced and fried.
  • Pollo - Chicken; alla cacciatore is “huntsman-style,” with tomatoes and mushrooms cooked in wine; alla diavola is spicy hot grilled chicken; al mattone is cooked under a hot brick.
  • Polpette - Small veal meatballs.
  • Polpo - Octopus.
  • Pomodoro - Tomato (plural pomodori).
  • Porcini - Huge tree mushrooms, best eaten grilled like a steak.
  • Porri - Leeks.


  • Quaglia - Quail.


  • Rape - Turnips.
  • Ribollita - A thick, almsot stew-like vegetable soup made with black cabbage, plenty of olive oil, celery, carrots, whatever else mamma has left over and all poured over thick slabs of peasant bread. A very filling, wintery dish.
  • Ricotta - A soft, fluffy, bland cheese made from the watery whey (not curds, as most cheese), and often used to stuff pastas. Ricotta salata is a salted, hardened version for nibbling.
  • Ripieno - Stuffed.
  • Risotto - Rice, often arborio, served very watery and sticky and usually made into a first course dish by boiling down with vegetables (asparagus tips, mushrooms) or mixed with seafood.
  • Rombo - Turbot fish.


  • Salsa verde - "Green sauce," made from capers, anchovies, lemon juice and/or vinegar, and parsley.
  • Salsicce - Sausage.
  • Saltimbocca - Veal scallop topped with a sage leaf and a slice of prosciutto and simmered in white wine. It’s so good, according to its name, that it “jumps in your mouth.”
  • Salvia - Sage.
  • Sarde - Sardines.
  • Scaloppine - Thin slices of meat, usually veal. They can be served any number of ways.
  • Scamorza - An air-dried (sometimes smoked) cheese similar to mozzarella, often sliced and grilled or melted over ham in a casserole giving it a thin crust and gooey interior.
  • Schiacciato - See “foccacia.”
  • Scottiglia - Stew of veal, chicken, various game, and tomatoes cooked in white wine.
  • Semifreddo - A cousin to gelato (ice cream), its a way of taking non[nd]ice cream desserts (tiramisú, zuppa inglese, etc.) and freezing and moussing them—imagine chocolate eclairs frozen and subjected to egg beaters.
  • Seppia - Cuttlefish (halfway between a squid and small octopus); its ink is used for flavoring and coloring in certain pastas and risotto dishes.
  • Sogliola - Sole.
  • Spaghetti - A long, thin pasta served: al pomodoro (with tomato sauce), alla carrettiera (in a tomato sauce spked with hot peppers), alla bolognese (in a meat ragu), alla carbonara (with bacon, black pepper, eggs, and grated pecorino romano cheese), and alle vongole (with clam sauce).
  • Spezzatino - Beef or veal stew, often with tomatoes.
  • Spiedino - A shishkebob (skwered bits of meat, onions, and slices of tomato or peppers grilled).
  • Spigola - A fish similar to sea bass or grouper.
  • Spinaci - Spinach (cooked to death).
  • Stoccafisso - Air-dried cod.
  • Stracciatella - Egg-drop soup topped with grated cheese.
  • Stracotto - “Overcooked” beef, wrapped in bacon and braised with onion and otmato for hours until it’s so tender it dissolves in your mouth.
  • Strangozzi - That “a” can be any vowel; this is the name for pici (see above) used around Assisi, Spoleto, and southeast Umbria.
  • Strozzapreti - Ricotta-and-spinach dumplings, usually served in tomato sauce; literally "priest-chokers." Also called strangolaprete.
  • Stufato - Beef pot roast, in wine, broth, and veggies.
  • Surgelato - Frozen.


  • Tacchino - Turkey.
  • Tagliatelle - Flat noodles.
  • Tartufo - (1) Truffles, the prized and extremely expensive fungal tuber that grows in fall mysteriously and unpredictably at the roots of certain trees (lucklily, many in Tuscany and Umbria); they often turn up grated atop the most expensive dishes on the menu (imparting a very delicate, rich flavor). Tartufi neri (black truffles) are highly sought after, and tartufi bianchi (whit truffles) are like edible gold. (2) An ice-cream ball made with a core of fudge, layer of “vanilla,” coating of chocolate, and dusting of cocoa; order it affogato, “drowning,” and they’ll pour brandy over it.
  • Tiramisú - Classic and highly caloric Italian dessert, made by layering lady fingers soaked in espresso (and often liqueur) with sweetened mascarpone cheese and then dusted with cocoa. It’s name means “pick me up.”
  • Tonno - Tuna.
  • Torta - A pie. Alla nonnais “grandma’s style” and usually is a creamy, lemony pie; alle meleis an apple tart; al limoneis lemon; alle fragole is strawberry; ai frutti di bosco is with berries.
  • Torta al testo - A flat, unleavened bread backed on the hearthstone and often split to be filled with sausage, spinach, of other goodies. An Umbrian treat.
  • Tortellini - Rings or half-moons of pasta stuffed with ricotta and spinach, or chopped meat (chicken and veal), or both; served either in soup (in brodo) or as pasta covered with sauce. Sometimes also called tortelli and tortelloni.
  • Trippa - Tripe (cow’s stomach lining). Served alla fiorentina means strips of squares of it casseroled with tomatoes and onions, topped with grated parmigiano cheese.
  • Trota - Trout.


  • Umbrichelli - Also ombricchelli, a slightly thiner version of pici (above) served in the Orvieto and southwest Umbrian area.
  • Umido - Stewed.


  • Vermicelli - Very thin spaghetti, not translated as “spirals” or “shells” are since it means “little worms”.
  • Vitello - Veal. A vitellone is an odler calf about to enter cow-hood.
  • Vongole - Clams.


  • Zabaglione/zabaione - A custard made of whipped egg yolks, sugar, and marsala wine.
  • Zampone - Pigs’ feet, usually stewed for hours.
  • Zuccotto - A tall, liqueur-soaked sponge cake, stuffed with whipped cream, ice cream, chocolate, and candied fruits.
  • Zuppa - Soup. Among many, this includes: fagioli e farro (beans and barley), porri e patate (potato-leeky), di pane (bread and veggies; another name for ribollita), and pavese  (eggs poached in boiling broth and poureed over toasted peasant bread).
  • Zuppa inglese - An English trifle, layered with liqueur-soaked ladyfingers and chocolate of vanilla cream.


  • Affumicato - Smoked.
  • Ai ferri - Grilled on a ridged metal plate.
  • Al forno - Oven roasted.
  • Al sangue - Rare.
  • All’arrabbiata - Spiked with chili peppers (literally “furious”)
  • Alla boscaiola - ”Woodman style,” usually with mushrooms and ham.
  • Alla griglia/Grigliata - Grilled (over an open fire, usually).
  • Alla Milanese - A meat scallop dipped in egg batter, dredged in flour, coated with bread crumbs, fried, and served with lemon and parsely.
  • Alla pizzaiola - smotheres in tomatoes and mozzarella/
  • Alle brace - Broiled over live coals.
  • Allo spiedo - On a skewer (siskebob).
  • Arrosto - Roasted.
  • Ben cotto - Well done.
  • Bollito/Lesso - Boiled.
  • Cotto - Cooked.
  • Crudo - Raw.
  • Disossata - Deboned.
  • Farcita - Stuffed.
  • Fritto - Fried.
  • In umido - Stewed.
  • Ripieno - Stuffed.
  • Surgelato - Frozen.

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