How To Learn Italian Vocabulary For Restaurants

avatarMille Larsen
3 mins read

Here in the United States, clever marketing people have learned to attach foreign words to products in order to make them sound more appealing, to the point where we imagine grand meanings in each of these names. But in reality, these foreign words are often nothing more than boring kitchen terms.

For fun, grab your pocket dictionary, translator, or phrasebook, and go eat in an international restaurant! Since I am studying Italian, I am going to discuss the items found in a typical Italian restaurant.

Here are some common phrases that I'm sure we've all seen before:

Paniniil pane is "bread", and -ino is a diminutive (we'll get to those soon, I promise!), so it's no surprise that i panini are a couple pieces of bread, ie, a "sandwich".

Minstroneminestra is "soup", and -one is an augmentative (we'll get into those soon!), so minestrone just just "thick soup".

Shrimp Casalingacasalinga means "housewife", or "homemaker", so this is "homemaker's shrimp".

Chicken Rotolinirotolini means "rolls", so these are just "chicken rolls".

Chicken Cacchiatorecacciatore is a "hunter". Here, cacchiatore is actually incorrect, and the correct name would be a la cacchiatora, meaning "in a hunter's sauce".

Pasta Primavera — We all know pasta, but many might be surprised to learn that the word pasta means "paste", or "dough". And I'll bet you thought primavera sounded like primo so it must mean "good", right? Wrong. La primavera is the spring season. So this dish is "spring pasta", or "spring-time dough".

Pasta e Fagioli al FornoFagioli are "beans", and that sensational mouthwatering phrase al forno, well, that just means "baked". So for all the fancy sounding words, the meaning is simply "baked dough and beans".

Frittura di Pesce — Mmmmm... another bunch of authentic Italian sounds that make my mouth water.... Ironically, frittura means "fried food", and now that I know that I'll never feel the same when I hear these sounds. Pesce, of course, means "fish", so this meal is simply "fried food of fish", or "fried fish".

This also means that Joe Pesci is "Joe Fish". Doesn't sound so tough anymore, does he?

So what fancy sounding food items have you discovered in the language you are studying? French? Spanish? German? Polish? Indian? Share with everyone in the comments!