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Italian Vocabulary for Food and Dining

Imagine savoring the culinary delights of Italy—a journey of flavors, textures, and aromas. Becoming familiar with Italian vocabulary for food and dining will not only enrich your experience but also empower you to order with confidence and enjoy conversations about meals. Below is a curated selection of Italian words and phrases that will help you navigate the gastronomic landscape of Italy.

Cibo
Cibo means food in general. It is the cornerstone of any culinary language and the most basic term you need to know.
Per cena voglio qualcosa di leggero, solo cibo sano.

Ristorante
Ristorante is the word for restaurant; the place where you go out to enjoy a meal prepared beyond the confines of your own kitchen.
Stasera andiamo a quel nuovo ristorante in centro.

Menu
Menu (pronounced meh-noo) means the same in Italian as in English – the list of available food and drinks in a restaurant.
Potrei vedere il menu, per favore?

Piatto
Piatto translates to dish or plate. It can refer to the physical plate or the prepared food that is served on it.
Questo piatto è davvero delizioso!

Antipasto
Antipasto is a starter or appetizer, intending to “open” the meal. It is typically a light and flavorful first course.
Per antipasto ho ordinato della bruschetta.

Primo
Primo literally means first and refers to the first main course, which often consists of pasta, soup, or risotto.
Come primo vorrei gli spaghetti al pomodoro.

Secondo
Secondo is the second main course, featuring meat or fish, and sometimes a substantial vegetarian option.
Dopo il risotto, come secondo prendo il pollo arrosto.

Contorno
Contorno refers to the side dish that accompanies the secondo. This could be a salad, cooked vegetables, or potatoes.
Mi può portare un contorno di spinaci, per favore?

Dolce
Dolce means sweet, and in the context of dining, it refers to dessert.
Ho sempre spazio per un dolce, specialmente se c’è il tiramisù.

Vino
Indispensable in Italian dining, vino is the word for wine.
Preferisci un vino rosso o un vino bianco?

Acqua
Acqua means water, a vital companion to any meal. You can specify “naturale” for still water or “frizzante” for sparkling.
Una bottiglia di acqua frizzante, per favore.

Cameriere/Cameriera
This term refers to the waiter (cameriere) or waitress (cameriera).
Scusi, cameriera, potremmo avere il conto?

Conto
Finally, conto is the bill you ask for when you’re ready to pay for your meal at the restaurant.
Potremmo avere il conto, per favore?

Understanding these key terms will not only ease your way into Italian dining but also enhance your appreciation of the country’s rich gastronomic traditions. Buon appetito!