How to order food in Italian: A delicious guide to dining out

Whether it’s a beach restaurant serving fish straight off the boat, a cozy little rustic trattoria in Tuscany, or the most exclusive gourmet, rooftop restaurant in downtown Milan, dining out in Italy is a delightful experience.

But when you go to a restaurant where you’re expected to speak in the local language, the situation may go from delightful to distressing. We’re here to help! In this article, we’ll go through restaurant vocabulary and Italian food names, and we’ll give you all the essential phrases and practical expressions to:

  • read an Italian menu;
  • order food in Italian at a restaurant;
  • reserve a table on the phone in Italian;
  • make special requests regarding how your food should be cooked;
  • alert your server about your dietary restrictions and food allergies.

There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get going!

Order food in Italian from an Iatlian beach restaurant serving fish straight off the boat.

Italian phrases for restaurant dining

You are genuinely spoiled for choice when it comes to dining in Italy. Before we proceed, let’s have a look at the most common types of restaurants:

  • Ristorante: a fine dining establishment where you can eat meals;
  • Pizzeria: a casual sit-down restaurant, where pizzas are made and served;
  • Trattoria: a traditionally family-run, reasonably priced restaurant serving local specialties;
  • Bistrot: a small, chic restaurant;
  • Tavola calda or snack bar, where you can have a small meal, such as a sandwich or salad;
  • Taverna: an informal, low-key inn that’s probably more about drinks than food, though it’ll have a simple food menu.

Dining out in an Italian restaurant can be a fun thing to do with friends, but, if you’re just learning Italian, all the new words can be quite confusing. Learning what to say, memorizing typical words you’ll find on restaurant menus, and knowing key Italian phrases and questions that can be heard from waitstaff can help make your experience easier.

We've gathered lots of these for you in the tables below. Take some time to have a look at them. Your confidence will grow as you expand your Italian vocabulary.

Restaurant vocabulary in Italian

Let’s start with restaurant vocabulary, including mealtime names and the different courses you can find on an Italian menu.

English Italian IPAPronunciation
MealPasto [pˈasto]pah-stoh
DishPiatto, pietanza[pjˈatːo], [pjetˈant͡sa]pee-ah-toh, pee-eh-than-tsah
DelicacyPrelibatezza [prelibatˈet͡sːa]preh-lee-bah-the-tsah
SpecialtySpecialità [spet͡ʃalitˈa]speh-cha-lee-tah
BreakfastColazione [kolat͡siˈone]koh-lah-tsee-oh-neh
LunchPranzo [prˈaŋd͡zo]prahn-tsoh
DinnerCena [t͡ʃˈena]cheh-nah
Pizza restaurantPizzeria[pit͡sːerˈia]pee-tseh-ree-ah
Traditional restaurant, trattoriaTrattoria [tratːorˈia]trah-toh-ree-ah
BistrotBistrot [bisˈtro]bee-stroh
DinerTavola calda[tˈavola kˈalda]tah-voh-lah kahl-dah
ChefChef, cuoco[ʃˈeff], [kʊˈɔko]sheph, koo-oh-koh
Pizza makerPizzaiolo[pit͡sːajˈɔlo]pee-tsah-ee-oh-loh
TakeawayDa asporto[dˈa aspˈɔrto]dah ah-spohr-toh
TableTavolo [tˈavolo]tah-voh-loh
MenuMenù [menˈu]meh-noo
Service chargeCoperto[kopˈɛrto]koh-pehr-toh
Appetizer, starterAntipasto [antipˈasto]ahn-tee-pah-stoh
First coursePrimo, primo piatto[prˈimo], [prˈimo pjˈatːo]pree-moh, pree-moh pee-ah-toh
Second courseSecondo, secondo piatto[sekˈondo], [sekˈondo pjˈatːo]seh-kohn-doh, seh-kohn-doh pee-ah-toh
Side dishContorno[kontˈorno]kohn-tohr-noh
WaterAcqua [ˈakːwa]ah-koo-ah
WineVino [vˈino]vee-noh

Tableware vocabulary in Italian

Let’s move on to tableware vocabulary, including servingware and what you can find on a restaurant table.

English Italian IPAPronunciation
Stem glassCalice[kˈalit͡ʃe]kah-lee-che
SpoonCucchiaio [kʊkːjˈaio]koo-kee-ah-ee-oh
TeaspoonCucchiaino [kʊkːiaˈino]koo-kee-ah-ee-noh
Salad bowlInsalatiera [insalatiˈɛra]een-sah-lah-tee-eh-rah
TureenZuppiera [d͡zʊpːiˈɛra]tsoo-pee-eh-rah
BottleBottiglia [botːˈiʎa]boht-tee-wlhee-ah
TableclothTovaglia [tovˈaʎa]toh-vah-wlhee-ah

How to ask for a table in Italian

These days we usually make reservations online. If you need to make a reservation by phone, planning what to say in advance can help make it easier and less unnerving. Does the idea of talking on the phone in Italian frighten you? Check out the table below, and you won’t be scared anymore. If you need a refresher, you can always go back to our fun and free guides to the days of the week, numbers, and how to tell the time in Italian.

Young woman ringing to make a table reservation in Italian.

You can also ask for a table when arriving at a restaurant without a reservation. Are you curious to know how to say “do you have a table for three?” in Italian? Well, let’s find out right away!

English Italian IPAPronunciation
I would like to make a reservation for three people for Thursday evening at 8:30 pm.Vorrei prenotare un tavolo per tre persone per giovedì sera alle ore 20:30.[vorɾˈɛi prenotˈare ˈun tˈavolo pˈer trˈe persˈone pˈer d͡ʒovedˈi sˈera ˈalle ˈore vˈɛntɪ ˈeː trˈɛnta]voh-reh-ee preh-noh-tah-reh oon tah-voh-loh pehr treh pehr-soh-neh pehr joh-veh-dee seh-rah ahl-leh oh-reh vehn-tee eh trehn-tah
Is it possible to book a table for three people?È possibile prenotare un tavolo per tre persone? [ˈɛː pos͡sˈibile prenotˈare ˈun tˈavolo pˈer trˈe persˈone]eh poh-see-bee-leh preh-noh-tah-reh oon tah-voh-loh pehr treh pehr-soh-neh
Is it possible to book a table for five people in the rooftop terrace?È possibile prenotare un tavolo per cinque persone nella terrazza panoramica?[ˈɛː pos͡sˈibile prenotˈare ˈun tˈavolo pˈer t͡ʃˈinkwe persˈone nˈɛlla terɾˈat͡sːa panorˈamika]eh poh-see-bee-leh preh-noh-tah-reh oon tah-voh-loh pehr cheen-koo-eh pehr-soh-neh neh-lah tehr-rah-tsah pah-noh-rah-mee-kah
Hello! A table for two people please!Salve, un tavolo per due persone, per favore![sˈalve ˈun tˈavolo pˈer dˈue persˈone pˈer favˈore]sahl-veh oon tah-voh-loh pehr doo-eh pehr-soh-neh pehr phah-voh-reh
Hello! Do you have a table for three?Salve, avete un tavolo per tre persone?[sˈalve avˈete ˈun tˈavolo pˈer trˈe persˈone]sahl-veh ah-veh-teh oon tah-voh-loh pehr treh pehr-soh-neh
Do you have any tables available for a group of four?Avete un tavolo libero per quattro, per favore? [avˈete ˈun tˈavolo lˈibero pˈer kwˈatːro pˈer favˈore]ah-veh-teh oon tah-voh-loh pehr koo-aht-troh pehr phah-voh-reh
Do we have to wait long for a table for two?C'è molto da aspettare per un tavolo per due?[t͡ʃˈɛː mˈolto dˈa aspetːˈare pˈer ˈun tˈavolo pˈer dˈue]cheh mohl-toh dah ahs-peht-tah-reh pehr oon tah-voh-loh pehr doo-eh
Are dogs allowed in the restaurant?È consentito l’accesso ai cani nel ristorante?[ˈɛː konsentˈito ˈɛlle’at͡ʃːˈɛs͡so ˈaj kˈanɪ nˈɛl ristorˈante]eh kohn-sehn-tee-toh lah-chehs-soh ahee kah-nee nehl ree-stoh-rahn-teh
I made a reservation for two people under the name Francesco Beltramini.Ho prenotato un tavolo per quattro persone a nome Francesco Beltramini.[ˈɔ prenotˈato ˈun tˈavolo pˈer kwˈatːro persˈone ˈaː nˈome frant͡ʃˈesko beltramˈinɪ]oh preh-noh-tah-toh oon tah-voh-loh pehr koo-aht-troh pehr-soh-neh ah noh-meh frahn-che-skoh behl-trah-mee-nee
There are four of us.Siamo in quattro.[sjˈamo ˈiːn kwˈatːro]see-ah-moh een koo-aht-troh

How to order food in Italian

You are expected to talk a lot with waitstaff while at a restaurant in Italy, so it’s advisable to get prepared with some key phrases, questions, and expressions. The phrases gathered in the table below are very helpful, and can be used when you want to order food, alert your server about your dietary restrictions or food allergies, and ask for the check.

Italian phrases for restaurant workers and waiters.

English Italian IPAPronunciation
Can I see the menu, please?Posso vedere il menù, per favore?[pˈɔs͡so vedˈere ˈiːl menˈu pˈer favˈore]pohs-soh veh-deh-reh eel meh-noo pehr phah-vo-reh
What do you recommend?Che cosa ci consiglia?[kˈe kˈɔza t͡ʃˈi konsˈiʎa]keh koh-sah chee kohn-see-wlhee-ah
What are your specialties?Quali sono le specialità della casa?[kwˈalɪ sˈono lˈe spet͡ʃalitˈa dˈella kˈaza]koo-ah-lee soh-noh leh speh-cha-lee-tah dehl-lah kah-sah
What are the specials of the day?Quali sono i piatti del giorno?[kwˈalɪ sˈono ˈi pjˈatːɪ dˈel d͡ʒˈorno]koo-ah-lee soh-noh ee pee-ah-the dehl johr-noh
Is there a local specialty?C’è una specialità locale? [t͡ʃˈi’ˈɛː ˈuna spet͡ʃalitˈa lokˈale]che oo-nah speh-cha-lee-tah loh-kah-leh
What’s the Genoese pesto sauce made with?Cosa c’è nel pesto alla genovese?[kˈɔza t͡ʃˈi’ˈɛː nˈɛl pˈɛsto ˈalla d͡ʒenovˈeze]koh-sah che nehl pehs-toh ahl-lah jeh-noh-veh-seh
I’ll have the…Io prendo…[ˈio prˈɛndo]ee-oh prehn-doh
I’ll have the…Per me…[pˈer mˈe]pehr meh
I’ll have the…Vorrei... [pˈer mˈe]vohr-reh-ee
I’ll have a well done steak.Io prendo una bistecca ben cotta, per favore.[ˈio prˈɛndo ˈuna bistˈekːa bˈɛn kˈɔtːa pˈer favˈore]ee-oh prehn-doh oo-nah bee-steh-kah behn koht-tah pehr phah-voh-reh
I’ll have a medium beefsteak.Io prendo una bistecca di manzo a cottura media.[ˈio prˈɛndo ˈuna bistˈekːa dˈi mˈand͡zo ˈaː kotːˈura mˈɛdia]ee-oh prehn-doh oo-nah bee-steh-kah dee mahn-tsoh ah koht-too-rah meh-dee-ah
I’ll have a rare Florentine steak.Io prendo una bistecca Fiorentina al sangue.[ˈio prˈɛndo ˈuna bistˈekːa fjorentˈina ˈal sˈaŋɡwe]ee-oh prehn-doh oo-nah bee-steh-kah phee-oh-rehn-tee-nah ahl sahn-goo-eh
A bottle of water for the table, please.Acqua naturale, per favore.[ˈakːwa natʊrˈale pˈer favˈore]ah-koo-ah nah-too-rah-leh pehr phah-voh-reh
May I please order a bottle of white wine?È possibile ordinare una bottiglia di vino bianco?[ˈɛː pos͡sˈibile ordinˈare ˈuna botːˈiʎa dˈi vˈino bjˈanko]eh poh-see-bee-leh ohr-dee-nah-reh oo-nah boht-tee-wlhee-ah dee vee-noh bee-ahn-koh
Which wines do you recommend?Che vini ci consiglia?[kˈe vˈinɪ t͡ʃˈi konsˈiʎa]keh vee-nee chee kohn-see-wlhee-ah
Do you have vegetarian options?Avete piatti vegetariani?[avˈete pjˈatːɪ ved͡ʒetariˈanɪ]ah-veh-the pee-ah-tee veh-jeh-tah-ree-ah-nee
Do you have vegan options?Avete piatti vegani?[avˈete pjˈatːɪ veɡˈanɪ]ah-veh-the pee-ah-tee veh-gah-nee
I’m a vegetarian.Sono vegetariano.Sono vegetariana.[sˈono ved͡ʒetariˈano]
[sˈono ved͡ʒetariˈana]
soh-noh veh-jeh-tah-ree-ah-nohsoh-noh veh-jeh-tah-ree-ah-nah
I’m vegan.Sono vegano. Sono vegana.[sˈono veɡˈano]
[sˈono veɡˈana]
soh-noh veh-gah-nohsoh-noh veh-gah-nah
I’m allergic to…Sono allergico a…Sono allergica a…[sˈono allˈɛrd͡ʒiko ˈaː]
[sˈono allˈɛrd͡ʒika ˈaː]
soh-noh ahl-lehr-jee-koh ahsoh-noh ahl-lehr-jee-kah ah
I have a severe food allergy to…Ho una grave allergia alimentare a… [ˈɔ ˈuna ɡrˈave allerd͡ʒˈia alimentˈare ˈaː]oh oo-nah grah-veh ahl-lehr-jee-ah ah-lee-mehn-tah-reh ah
I can’t eat dishes that contain…Non posso mangiare cibi che contengono…[nˈon pˈɔs͡so mand͡ʒˈare t͡ʃˈibɪ kˈe kontˈeŋɡono]nohn pohs-soh mahn-jah-reh chee-bee keh kohn-tehn-goh-noh
I have celiac disease.Sono celiaco.Sono celiaca.[sˈono t͡ʃelˈiako]
[sˈono t͡ʃelˈiaka]
soh-noh che-lee-ah-kohsoh-noh che-lee-ah-kah
I’m lactose intolerant.Sono intollerante al lattosio.[sˈono intollerˈante ˈal latːˈozio]soh-noh een-tohl-leh-rahn-teh ahl lath-toh-see-oh
That was delicious!Era tutto buonissimo![ˈɛra tˈutːo bʊonˈis͡simo]eh-rah toot-toh boo-oh-nee-see-moh
Compliments to the chef!I miei complimenti allo chef![ˈi mjˈɛi komplimˈentɪ ˈallo ʃˈeff]ee mee-eh-ee kohm-plee-mehn-tee ahl-loh sheph
Could I please have the bill?Posso avere il conto, per favore? [pˈɔs͡so avˈere ˈiːl kˈonto pˈer favˈore]pohs-soh ah-veh-reh eel kohn-toh pehr pha-voh-reh
The bill, please.Il conto, per favore.[ˈiːl kˈonto pˈer favˈore]eel kohn-toh pehr pha-voh-reh
Can we have separate bills?Possiamo avere un conto separato?[pos͡sjˈamo avˈere ˈun kˈonto sepaɾˈato]pohs-see-ah-moh ah-veh-reh oon kohn-toh seh-pah-rah-toh

If you order for delivery, you’ll be asked for some personal details over the phone, such as your address, phone number, and buzzer code.

You can also choose the pick-up option, which means that you have to go to the restaurant to collect your order.

Real-life Italian conversation between a waiter and a restaurant diner

Waiter: Buongiorno, signori.
Hello, Sirs.

Customer: Buongiorno! È consentito l’accesso ai cani nel ristorante?
Hello! Are dogs allowed in the restaurant?

Waiter: Sì, certamente. Avete prenotato?
Yes, sure. Do you have a reservation?

Customer: Sì, ho prenotato un tavolo per due persone a nome Francesco Beltramini.
Yes, I made a reservation for two people under Francesco Beltramini.

Waiter: Perfetto! Prego, venite da questa parte. Porto subito una ciotola con dell’acqua per il cane.
Perfect! Please, come this way. I’ll bring a bowl of water for your dog right away.

Customer: Grazie mille!
Thank you very much!

Waiter: Ecco l’acqua.
Here’s the water.

Customer: Quali sono le specialità della casa?
What are your specialties?

Waiter: Risotto al radicchio rosso, e anguilla marinata.
Red radicchio risotto, and marinated eel.

Customer: Fantastico. Mia sorella prende il risotto al radicchio rosso, mentre io prendo i calamari in umido, senza pepe. Ho una grave allergia alimentare al pepe nero.
Great. My sister will have red radicchio risotto, and l’ll have stewed squid without pepper. I have a severe food allergy to black pepper.

Waiter: Va bene. Ottima scelta!
Alright. That’s a very good choice!

Customer: Grazie!

Waiter: Da bere?
To drink?

Customer: Un quartino di vino bianco della casa, per favore.
A quarter liter of house wine, please.

Waiter: Arriva subito!
It will be here in a moment!

Italian phrases for restaurant workers and waiters

In the table below, we’ve collected phrases and questions you might hear from waitstaff when dining out. By learning them, you’ll better understand what waiters and waitresses are saying to you. Note that they usually speak to customers using formal Lei. Informal tu is used only with children.

Waiter pouring wine for his customers while they order food in Italian.

English Italian IPAPronunciation
How many are in your party?Quanti siete?
Quante persone siete?
[kwˈantɪ sjˈete]
[kwˈante persˈone sjˈete]
koo-ahn-tee see-eh-teh
koo-ahn-tee pehr-soh-neh see-eh-teh
Do you have a reservation?Ha prenotato? [ˈa prenotˈato]ah preh-noh-tah-toh
What would you like to drink?Cosa porto da bere?[kˈɔza pˈɔrto dˈa bˈere]koh-sah pohr-toh dah beh-reh
To drink?Da bere?[dˈa bˈere]dah beh-reh
What would you like to eat?Che cosa vi porto?[kˈe kˈɔza vˈi pˈɔrto]koh-sah vee pohr-toh
Are you ready to order?Siete pronti per ordinare?[sjˈete prˈontɪ pˈer ordinˈare]see-eh-the prohn-tee pehr ohr-dee-nah-reh
Would you like to hear the daily specials?Desidera che Le illustri le specialità del giorno?[dezˈidera kˈe lˈe illˈustrɪ lˈe spet͡ʃalitˈa dˈel d͡ʒˈorno]deh-see-deh-rah keh leh ehl-loo-stree leh speh-cha-lee-tah dehl johr-noh
Would you like to see the wine list?Volete che vi porti la carta dei vini?[volˈete kˈe vˈi pˈɔrtɪ lˈa kˈarta dˈe͡ɪ vˈinɪ]voh-leh-teh keh vee pohr-tee lah kahr-tah deh-ee vee-nee
That’s a very good choice!Ottima scelta![ˈotːima ʃˈelta]oht-tee-mah shel-tah
I'll bring a bowl of water for your dog.Le porto subito una ciotola con dell’acqua per il cane.[lˈe pˈɔrto sˈubito ˈuna t͡ʃˈɔtola kˈon dˈɛl’ˈakːwa pˈer ˈiːl kˈane]leh pohr-toh soo-bee-toh oo-nah cho-toh-lah kohn dehl ah-koo-ah pehr eel kah-neh
Would you like a high-chair?Serve un seggiolone?[sˈɛrve ˈun sed͡ʒːolˈone]sehr-veh oon seh-joh-loh-neh
How is your meal?Com’era? [kˈom’ˈɛra]kohm-eh-rah
Was it good?Andava bene?[andˈava bˈɛne]ahn-dah-vah beh-neh
Enjoy your meal!Buon appetito![bwˈɔn apːetˈito]boo-ohn ahp-peh-tee-toh

Real-life Italian conversation between a waiter and a restaurant diner

Waiter: Buongiorno signori. Quanti siete?
Hello, Sirs. How many are in your party?

Customer: Buongiorno, siamo in quattro.
Hello! There are four of us.

Waiter: Avete prenotato?
Do you have a reservation?

Customer: No, non abbiamo prenotato. Passavamo di qua. Avete un tavolo libero per quattro?
No, we don't have a reservation. We were passing by. Do you have a table for four?

Waiter: Sì, abbiamo un tavolo libero. Venite, signori, da questa parte. Serve un seggiolone per la bambina?
Yes, we have a free table. Please come this way. Would you like a high-chair for your little girl?

Customer: Sì, grazie.
Yes, please!

Waiter: Ecco qui. Cosa porto da bere?
Here you go. What would you like to drink?

Customer: Due bottiglie di acqua frizzante, grazie.
Two bottles of fizzy water, please.

Waiter: Ecco a voi. Siete pronti per ordinare?
Here you are. Are you ready to order?

Customer: Che cosa ci consiglia?
What do you recommend?

Waiter: La polenta concia con funghi è ottima. Anche la fonduta valdostana e le costolette sono buonissime.
Polenta concia with mushrooms is excellent. The fondue and the ribs are also very good.

Customer: Ok, prendiamo due porzioni di fonduta valdostana e la polenta concia, grazie.
Okay, we’ll have two servings of Aosta Valley fondue and the polenta concia, please.

Waiter: Ottima scelta!
That’s a very good choice!

Restaurant menu in Italian: food vocabulary

In the table below you’ll find a list of the basic food groups in Italian. Check out our veg and fruit articles as well.

EnglishItalian IPAPronunciation
VegetablesOrtaggi, verdure[ortˈad͡ʒːɪ]
Dried fruitsFrutta secca[frˈutːa sˈekːa]phroo-tah seh-kah
BurgerHamburger, svizzera[ambˈurɡer]
Dairy productsLatticini [latːit͡ʃˈinɪ]laht-tee-chee-nee
MilkLatte [lˈatːe]laht-teh
SoupMinestra, zuppa[minˈɛstra]
DipSalsa [sˈalsa]sahl-sah

Types of pasta noodles

Let’s now have a look at the most common types of pasta noodles you will see in restaurant menus in Italy. Note that, in some cases, there may be differences in spelling and pronunciation to what you are accustomed. We’ll show you the right way to pronounce every word in correct Italian. I think Italian-American names, like “maCAroni,” “fettucciNI,” and “linguiNI” probably come from a wrong spelling or a bad pronunciation of the original Italian words.

Chef making pasta fettuccine and linguine in Italian.

Italian Description IPAPronunciation
SpaghettiLong strands of pasta.[spaɡˈetːɪ]spah-ghet-tee
FettuccinePasta in the form of narrow ribbons.[fetːʊt͡ʃːˈine]pheht-too-chee-neh
Linguine Narrow flat pasta.[liŋɡwˈine]leen-goo-ee-neh
MaccheroniShort tubes of pasta.[makːerˈonɪ]mah-keh-roh-nee
RavioliSmall envelopes of pasta containing minced meat, cheese or vegetables.[ravjˈɔlɪ]rah-vee-oh-lee
TortelliniPasta in the form of little ring-shaped cases containing meat or cheese.[tortellˈinɪ]tohr-tehl-lee-nee
TagliatelleThin, long strips of pasta.[taʎatˈɛlle]tah-wlhee-ah-tehl-leh
TaglioliniA type of ribbon pasta.[taʎolˈinɪ]tah-wlhee-oh-lee-nee
PenneA type of pasta in the shape of tubes.[pˈenne]pehn-neh
FusilliSpiral-shaped pasta.[fʊzˈillɪ]phoo-seel-lee
OrecchietteSmall oval pasta.[orekːjˈetːe]oh-reh-kee-eh-teh
GnocchiSmall round balls made out of potatoes.[ɲˈokːɪ]nyo-kee
CannelloniBoiled tube-shaped pasta filled with a meat, fish, cheese, or vegetable mixture.[kannellˈonɪ]kahn-nehl-loh-nee

Meats in Italian

Now we’ll learn what the most common meats are called in Italian.

English Italian IPAPronunciation
PorkMaiale, carne suina[majˈale]
[kˈarne sʊˈina]
kahr-neh soo-ee-nah
DeerCervo [t͡ʃˈɛrvo]cher-voh
StewStufato, spezzatino[stʊfˈato]
Roast beefArrosto di manzo[arɾˈɔsto dˈi mˈand͡zo]ahr-roh-stoh dee mahn-tsoh
Cold cutsAffettato[affetːˈatɪ]Ah-pheh-tah-toh

Italian names for fish and seafood

Are you curious to know how to say “oyster,” “squid,” and “cod” in Italian? Let’s find out immediately!

Ordering seafood in Italian.

English Italian IPAPronunciation
SeafoodFrutti di mare[frˈutːɪ dˈi mˈare]phroo-tee dee mah-reh
LobsterAragosta, astice[aɾaɡˈɔsta]
AnchovyAcciuga [at͡ʃːˈuɡa]ah-choo-ghah
ShrimpGambero, gamberetto[ɡˈambero]
SwordfishPesce spada[pˈeʃe spˈada]peh-she spah-dah

Spices and seasonings in Italian

Let’s now go through some of the most common spices and seasonings. Note that salad dressings don’t exist in Italy. Instead, you’ll be provided with genuine extra virgin olive oil, salt, and vinegar to dress your own salad at the table.

English Italian IPAPronunciation
Olive oilOlio d’oliva[ˈɔlio dolˈiva]oh-lee-oh doh-lee-vah
Extra virgin olive oilOlio extravergine d’oliva[ˈɔlio ekstravˈɛrd͡ʒine dolˈiva]oh-lee-oh ehc-strah-vehr-jee-neh doh-lee-vah
Balsamic vinegarAceto balsamico [at͡ʃˈeto balsˈamiko]ah-cheh-toh bahl-sah-mee-koh
PepperPepe [pˈepe]peh-peh
HerbsErbe aromatiche[ˈɛrbe aromˈatike]ehr-beh ah-roh-mah-tee-keh
OreganoOrigano [orˈiɡano]oh-ree-ghah-noh
MintMenta [mˈenta]mehn-tah
NutmegNoce moscata[nˈot͡ʃe moskˈata]noh-che moh-skah-tah

Desserts in Italian

Let’s now find out what desserts and sweets are called in Italian.

Beautiful Italian desserts.

English Italian IPAPronunciation
Ice creamGelato[d͡ʒelˈato]jeh-lah-toh
SorbetSorbetto [sorbˈetːo]sohr-beht-toh
SmoothieFrappè [frapːˈɛ]phrap-peh
SemifreddoSemifreddo [semifrˈɛdːo]seh-mee-phred-doh
CreamPanna [pˈanna]pahn-nah
MousseMousse [moˈus͡se]moos
Ring-shaped cakeCiambella [t͡ʃambˈɛlla]chahm-behl-lah
MeringueMeringa [merˈiŋɡa]meh-reen-ghah
BriocheCornetto [kornˈetːo]kohr-neht-toh
PastryPasticcino [pastit͡ʃːˈino]pah-stee-chee-noh
Panna cottaPanna cotta [pˈanna kˈɔtːa]pahn-nah koht-tah
TrifleZuppa inglese[d͡zˈupːa iŋɡlˈeze]tsoo-pah een-gleh-seh
StrudelStrudel [strˈudel]stroo-dehl
Chocolate candyCioccolatino[t͡ʃokːolatˈino]cho-koh-lah-tee-noh
Chocolate covered cherry with liqueurBoero [boˈɛro]boh-eh-roh

Italian ways to cook and serve food

Typical words you’ll find on restaurant menus include ways to cook and serve food. Here is a complete list for you to learn.

English Italian IPAPronunciation
BakedAl forno[ˈal fˈorno]ahl phor-noh
GrilledAi ferri[ˈaj fˈɛrɾɪ]ah-ee pheh-ree
StewedIn umido[ˈiːn ˈumido]een oo-mee-doh
CreamedMantecato [mantekˈato]mahn-the-kah-toh
SpicyPiccante [pikːˈante]pee-kahn-teh

How to order pizza in Italian

I remember I was so fascinated with pizza makers tossing, spinning, and whirling disks of pizza dough over their heads, that I wanted so badly to be a pizzaiolo when I was 5 or 6.

Pizza dough should actually never be rolled with a roller, but gently stretched and flatten into a disk using the palm of your hand. For centuries, Italian pizzaioli have followed traditional methods to create the real, authentic, 12-inch round pizza all’italiana. Neapolitan pizza-making has UNESCO world heritage status.

Traditional Italian pizza is typically cooked in wood-fired brick ovens, so that it takes on a perfectly crispy yet chewy crust, and slightly smoky flavor. The basic version is topped with fresh, ripe, fragrant, juicy tomato, tender basil, genuine extra virgin olive oil, and melty mozzarella. Yummy!

This is pizza according to the Italian model, and there are different varieties. Let’s have a look:

  • Pizza al taglio (literally, ‘pizza by the cut’) is baked in large rectangular trays, and generally served in square or rectangular slices. This variety of pizza was invented in Rome, and is now common throughout Italy. It’s also called pizza al trancio (literally, ‘pizza by the slice’), and pizza in teglia (‘pizza in the pan’).
  • Pizza al metro (literally, ‘pizza by the meter’) is a variety of pizza baked with the same method of preparation as traditional pizza, but rolling out the dough to a predefined size. This variety was invented in the Sorrento peninsula, and is also called pizza alla pala (literally, ‘pizza loaded with a baker's peel’).
  • Pinsa is a Roman-style, delicious, lighter version of the traditional pizza, whose dough is made of 80% water and a variety of premium gluten-free flours.
  • Pizza fritta (literally, ‘fried pizza’) is Neapolitan pizza’s lesser-known cousin. This exceptionally airy cocoon of golden goodness is usually filled with ricotta, Provola cheese, and fresh tomato.

The phrases in this table will be useful to know when you want to order pizza in Italian.

Woman orders pizza in Italian.

What varieties of pizza do you have?Quali varietà di pizza avete?[kwˈalɪ varietˈa dˈi pˈit͡sːa avˈete]koo-ah-lee vah-ree-eh-tah dee pee-tsah ah-veh-teh
What types of dough do you use?Che impasti di pizza avete?[kˈe impˈastɪ dˈi pˈit͡sːa avˈete]keh eem-pah-stee ah-veh-teh
What’s Neapolitan pizza made of?Cosa c’è sulla pizza napoletana?[kˈɔza t͡ʃˈi’ˈɛː sˈulla pˈit͡sːa napoletˈana]koh-sah che sool-lah pee-tsah nah-poh-leh-tah-nah
May I have a gluten-free pizza?Posso avere una pizza senza glutine?[pˈɔs͡so avˈere ˈuna pˈit͡sːa sˈɛnt͡sa ɡlˈutine]poh-soh ah-veh-re oo-nah pee-tsah sehn-tsah gloo-tee-neh
May I have a dairy free pizza?Posso avere una pizza senza latticini?[pˈɔs͡so avˈere ˈuna pˈit͡sːa sˈɛnt͡sa latːit͡ʃˈinɪ]poh-soh ah-veh-re oo-nah pee-tsah sehn-tsah laht-tee-chee-nee
May I have a pizza without mozzarella?Posso avere una pizza senza mozzarella?[pˈɔs͡so avˈere ˈuna pˈit͡sːa sˈɛnt͡sa mot͡sːarˈɛlla]poh-soh ah-veh-re oo-nah pee-tsah sehn-tsah moh-tsah-rehl-lah
Do you have vegetarian pizza options?Avete pizze vegetariane?[avˈete pˈit͡sːe ved͡ʒetariˈane]ah-veh-teh pee-tseh veh-jeh-tah-ree-ah-neh
Do you have vegan pizza options?Avete pizze vegane?[avˈete pˈit͡sːe veɡˈane]ah-veh-teh pee-tseh veh-ghah-neh
I’ll have a ham and mushroom pizza.Io prendo una pizza al prosciutto e funghi.[ˈio prˈɛndo ˈuna pˈit͡sːa ˈal proʃˈutːo ˈeː fˈuŋɡɪ]ee-oh prehn-doh oo-nah pee-tsah ahl proh-shoo-toh eh phoon-ghee
A seafood pizza for me, please!Per me una pizza ai frutti di mare, grazie![pˈer mˈe ˈuna pˈit͡sːa ˈaj frˈutːɪ dˈi mˈare ɡrˈat͡sje]pehr meh oo-nah pee-tsah ah-ee phroo-tee dee mah-reh grah-tsee-eh

Pizza styles you need to try to understand true Italian pizza

Pizza is loved around the world, and is often the first food people think of when they imagine Italian cuisine. How many real Italian pizza styles can you name? Here is a complete list for you, with ingredients and toppings (spoilers: no chicken, no pineapples).

English Italian IPAPronunciationTopping
Margherita pizzaPizza Margherita[pˈit͡sːa marɡerˈita]pee-tsah mahr-gheh-ree-tahTomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, basil
Marinara pizzaPizza marinara [pˈit͡sːa marinˈaɾa]pee-tsah mah-ree-nah-rahTomato, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, garlic
Neapolitan pizzaPizza napoletana[pˈit͡sːa napoletˈana]pee-tsah nah-poh-leh-tah-nahSan Marzano tomatoes, buffalo milk mozzarella, basil
Four seasons pizzaPizza quattro stagioni[pˈit͡sːa kwˈatːro stad͡ʒˈonɪ]pee-tsah koo-aht-troh stah-jee-oh-neeArtichokes, tomatoes, basil, ham, mushrooms
Four cheese pizzaPizza ai quattro formaggi[pˈit͡sːa ˈaj kwˈatːro formˈad͡ʒːɪ]pee-tsah ah-ee koo-aht-troh phor-mah-jeeParmigiano Reggiano, Gorgonzola, Ricotta, Mozzarella cheese
Capricciosa pizzaPizza capricciosa[pˈit͡sːa kaprit͡ʃːˈɔza]pee-tsah kah-pree-choh-sahMozzarella cheese, Italian baked ham, mushroom, artichoke, tomato
Roman pizzaPizza romana[pˈit͡sːa romˈana]pee-tsah roh-mah-nahTomato, mozzarella, capers, anchovy
Apulian pizzaPizza pugliese[pˈit͡sːa pʊʎˈeze]pee-tsah poo- wlhee-eh-sehTomato, mozzarella, onions
Sicilian pizzaPizza siciliana[pˈit͡sːa sit͡ʃiliˈana]pee-tsah see-chee-lee-ah-nahTomato, mozzarella, capers, olives, anchovy
Hot salami pizzaPizza alla diavola[pˈit͡sːa ˈalla djˈavola]pee-tsah ahl-lah dee-ah-voh-lahTomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, hot salami, extra virgin olive oil, oregano
Veggie pizzaPizza ortolana[pˈit͡sːa ortolˈana]pee-tsah ohr-toh-lah-nahTomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, mozzarella, bell peppers, eggplants, zucchini
Seafood pizzaPizza ai frutti di mare[pˈit͡sːa ˈaj frˈutːɪ dˈi mˈare]pee-tsah ah-ee phroo-tee dee mah-rehTomato sauce, clams, scallops, mussels, shrimp, squid
Mushroom pizzaPizza ai funghi [pˈit͡sːa ˈaj fˈuŋɡɪ]pee-tsah ah-ee phoon-gheeMushrooms,tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, oregano, garlic
Ham pizzaPizza al prosciutto[pˈit͡sːa ˈal proʃˈutːo]pee-tsah ahl proh-shoo-tohTomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, ham, oregano
Ham and mushroom pizzaPizza al prosciutto e funghi [pˈit͡sːa ˈal proʃˈutːo ˈeː fˈuŋɡɪ]pee-tsah ahl proh-shoo-toh eh phoon-gheeTomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, ham, mushrooms, oregano
Mushroom and sausage pizzaPizza alla boscaiola[pˈit͡sːa ˈalla boskajˈɔla]pee-tsah ahl-lah boh-skah-ee-oh-lahTomato sauce, mushrooms, sausage, mozzarella cheese
Parmigiana pizzaPizza parmigiana[pˈit͡sːa parmid͡ʒˈana]pee-tsah pahr-mee-jah-nahEggplants, tomatoes, Parmigiano, mozzarella cheese, smoked scamorza cheese, basil, garlic, extra virgin olive oil
Arugula pizzaPizza rucola e Grana[pˈit͡sːa rˈukola ˈeː ɡrˈana]pee-tsah roo-koh-lah eh grah-nahArugula, Parmigiano, mozzarella cheese, tomato, extra virgin olive oil
Shrimp pizzaPizza rucola e gamberetti[pˈit͡sːa rˈukola ˈeː ɡamberˈetːɪ]pee-tsah roo-koh-lah eh gahm-beh-reht-teeShrimps, mozzarella cheese, arugula, tomato, oregano, extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil
Mushroom and seafood pizzaPizza mare e monti[pˈit͡sːa mˈare ˈeː mˈontɪ]pee-tsah mah-reh eh mohn-teeSeafood, mushrooms, mozzarella, parsley, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, tomato sauce
Pizza with Vienna sausagesPizza ai würstel[pˈit͡sːa ˈaj wˈurstel]pee-tsah ah-ee voor-stehlVienna sausages, oregano, tomato sauce, mozzarella
Eggplant pizzaPizza alle melanzane[pˈit͡sːa ˈalle melaŋd͡zˈane]pee-tsah ahl-leh meh-lahn-tsha-nehEggplants, extra virgin olive oil, basil, mozzarella, tomato sauce
Tuna pizza with black olivesPizza al tonno e olive nere[pˈit͡sːa ˈal tˈonno ˈeː olˈive nˈere]pee-tsah ahl tohn-noh eh oh-lee-veh neh-rehTuna, onions, black olives, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, mozzarella, tomato
Bismarck pizzaPizza alla Bismarck[pˈit͡sːa ˈalla bˈizmarkː]pee-tsah ahl-lah bees-mahrkEggs, ham, extra virgin olive oil, parsley, tomato, mozzarella cheese
Buffalo mozzarella pizzaPizza bufalina[pˈit͡sːa bʊfalˈina]pee-tsah boo-pha-lee-nahBuffalo milk mozzarella, tomato, basil
White pizzaPizza bianca[pˈit͡sːa bjˈanka]pee-tsah bee-ahn-kahPlain dough drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with salt and rosemary

Test your knowledge

Now that you know how to order food in Italian, try ordering something off of our Berlitz Italian menu. There are lots of local specials to choose from.

How to order food in Italian with our Berlitz Italian menu.

6 things first-time foreign visitors find weird when dining out in Italy

If you’re planning a trip to the Bel Paese, knowing Italy’s habits, customs, and expectations when it comes to tipping, taking leftovers home etc. will help you avoid weird looks, faux-pas, and awkward situations.

1. Not tipping

You’re not expected to tip restaurants in Italy, since you already pay for service in the so-called coperto (service charge), ranging from 1 to 5 euros per person.

2. Free water is not offered in Italian restaurants

Water is rarely if ever offered free of charge in Italian restaurants. You need to purchase bottled water. The whole classical American experience of being offered water free of charge in restaurants along with your meal just doesn’t exist in Italy.

3. Italian restaurants typically don’t have leftover boxes and take-home bags

You probably won’t find a need to do so, since portions in Italy are smaller than in the States, but if you want to take home leftover food from restaurant meals, you’ll have to specifically ask your server for a to-go bag. Your request will probably be treated without much surprise, but taking home food is not generally done in Italy. Despite the growing issue of food waste, for some reason most Italians still believe that taking home leftover food from a restaurant is a sign of rudeness, which is something I totally disagree with. Let’s hope the concept of doggie bags will become popular in Italy soon, to avoid unnecessary waste.

4. Italian meal times

In Italy, the majority of restaurants, trattorias, and pizzerias open for lunch at noon, and close between lunch and dinner. You’ll find that most of them don’t even open their doors until 8pm.

5. Don’t order a cappuccino after a meal

In Italy, cappuccino is strictly a breakfast beverage, usually served with a little pastry. If you want to fit in, don’t order a frothy cappuccino after a meal, then. For a post-dinner caffeine boost, opt for an espresso instead.

6. Don’t order PePPeroni pizza in Italy, because it’s not an Italian thing

In Italian, peperoni is the plural for peperone, which means bell pepper. Pepperoni is an Italian-American name. It doesn’t even mean the same thing in Italy. Don’t order a pepperoni pizza, then, unless you want it topped with bell peppers. Order a pizza alla diavola if you want it with hot salami.

The same goes with “Chicken Parmigiana,” “Spaghetti Bolognese,” “FettucciNI Alfredo,” “MaCAroni and Cheese,” “Marinara sauce,” garlic bread, and “Caesar’s Salad.” Don’t order them, because they are NOT Italian dishes. They’re all Italo-American creations.

Get ready for your next night out in a restaurant!

I know there’s quite a lot to take in here, but now you have all you need to confidently communicate in a restaurant environment, and order your meal by using phrases, questions, expressions, and collocations native Italian speakers use in natural speech.

Craving a slice of veggie pizza? Me too!

If you enjoyed this article, check out our Italian blog!

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