100 Italian Food/Drink Words And Phrases

If you haven't eaten your way across Italy yet, consider the advice of someone who has. Italian food varies dramatically from region to region, but you can rest assure you will find pasta, wine, espresso, and gelato wherever you go. And knowing a few Italian words and phrases along the way will be appreciated by employees at all your destinations. Of course, brushing up on this romance language will also give you confidence and enrich your overall experience.   

So, step out of your culinary comfort zone, go a little deeper than the words you probably already know — we're looking at you "caffè," "mozzarella," "gelato," and "panini" – and try all (or almost all) the country has to offer. Here's a little guide to some of the Italian words and phrases in this vibrant restaurant scene — and remember, you don't have to speak perfectly, a little effort goes a long way. 

At the coffee bar:

Caffè – an espresso

Cappuccino – a breakfast beverage not to be ordered after lunch or dinner

Macchiato – an espresso "stained" with milk foam

Caffè shakerato – an espresso shaken over ice forming a fothy summer treat

Caffè corretto – an espresso "corrected" with a shot of liquor, often grappa

Grappa – distillate made from grape pomace, the leftovers from wine-making

Caffè americano – an espresso served in a cappuccino cup with hot water on the side not to be mistaken with...

Un americano – an aperitivo of Campari, sweet vermouth, and club soda

Cornetto – an Italian croissant also referred to as a "brioche" in Northern Italy

Succo di frutta – fruit juice

Spremuta d'arancia – fresh-squeezed orange juice

Un bicchiere d'acqua – a glass of water

At the pizzeria:

Pizza – a flatbread, often circular in shape, baked with or without toppings

Mozzarella – cow's milk cheese made by pulling or stretching the warm curd

Mozzarella di bufala – mozzarella made with buffalo's milk

Pomodoro fresco – fresh tomato

Salsa di pomodoro – tomato sauce

Basilico – basil

Origano – oregano

Acciughe – anchovies

Capperi – capers

Cipolle – onions

Peperonicni – red chilis, often dried and in flakes

Peperoni – bell peppers

Salame picante – pepperoni or spicy, cured sausage

Salsiccia – sausage

Ananas – pineapple, an unacceptable Italian pizza topping

Wurstel – hot dog, a passable Italian pizza topping

At the gelateria:

Fiordilatte – "the flower of milk," theoretically made with the best part of the milk, meaning the cream

Panna – cream made without egg yolk

Crema – cream made with egg yolk

Cioccolato – chocolate

Cioccolato fondente – dark chocolate

Nocciola – hazelnut

Gianduja – chocolate hazelnut

Bacio – also chocolate hazelnut, but easier to pronounce

Stracciatella – chocolate chip, but with chocolate flakes rather than chocolate chunks

Fragola – strawberry

Lampone – raspberry

More – blackberry

At the paninoteca:

Panino – an Italian sandwich

Panini – more than one Italian sandwich. Panini is plural.

At the salumeria:

Prosciutto di Parma – salt-cured, air-dried ham, aged in or around Parma for months.

Prosciutto San Daniele – salt-cured, air-dried ham from San Daniele in the Friuli region of Northeastern Italy

Speck – dry-cured, smoked ham from Northern Italy

Coppa (in Lombardy and Emilia Romagna) – cured sausage made of pork shoulder

Coppa (in central Italy) – cured sausage made of pork head

Finocchiona – fennel-flavored cured pork sausage

Guanciale – cured pork jowl

Pancetta – pork belly, cured but not smoked. It's bacon with an Italian accent.

Pancetta affumicata – smoked pancetta

Porchetta – spit-roasted stuffed pig

Ingredients/dishes to look for:

Bottarga – salt-cured fish roe often from Sardinia or Sicily

Bruscandoli – hop shoots

Foccacia di Recco – a very thin flat bread filled with cheese. Arguably the most delicious thing you are likely to eat in Italy. Look for it in select parts of the Ligurian coast.

Frico – fried cheese served in Friuli

Granita – Sicilian shaved ice

Mascarpone – Italian cream cheese

Moeche – soft-shelled crabs from the Venetian lagoon

'nduja – spicy, spreadable pork sausage from Calabria

Ricci di mare – sea urchins, served seasonally in Puglia and Sicily

Funghi porcini – mushrooms with a big brown cap

Tartufo nero – black truffle, found year-round

Tartufo bianco – white truffles, available late fall to early winter

Good to know:

Colazione – breakfast

Pranzo – lunch

Cena – dinner

Merenda – snack, normally acceptable only if you are under the age of ten

Pane – bread

Olio extra vergine di oliva – EVOO

Formaggio – cheese

Carne – meat

Pesce – fish

Pollo – chicken

Maiale – pork

Cinghiale – wild boar

Di stagione – in season

Fuori stagione – out of season

Andato a male – gone bad

Vino – wine

Rosso/biano – red/white

Vino della casa – house wine

Vino della zona – wine produced nearby

Il conto – the check

Coperto – service charge, normally included in the check

Compreso – included

Escluso – excluded

Un'altra grappa, per favore – another grappa, please

Even better to know:

"Conosco i miei polli."

Literally – I know my chicken.

What it means – I know what I am talking about

"Sei come il prezzemolo."

Literally – You are like parsley

What it means – You pop up everywhere.

"Non fare il salame."

Literally – Don't act like salame.

What it means – Don't be a ham, you idiot.

"Non tutte le ciambelle riescono col buco."

Literally – Not all donuts come out with a hole.

What it means – Things don't always turn out as expected.

"Non puoi avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca."

Literally – You can't have a full wine barrel and a drunk wife.

What it means – You can't have your cake and eat it too.