Italian Food Terms You Must Know

italian food terms words

If you love Italian food, it’s essential that you are familiar with basic Italian food terms. It is also important to have a fundamental understanding of Italy as a country.

Italy is a peninsula in south-central Europe that extends into the Mediterranean Sea. It is geographically diverse with the Alps running along the northern region and world-renown beaches along its coastal areas.

Family is paramount in Italian culture and has strongly influenced how meals are structured and shared. Homecooked food in Italy often includes family-style meals which are dishes large enough to serve families of four or more. (Bucca di Beppo anyone?)

Italian cuisine

As you may know, Italian cuisine is widely known for its dozens upon dozens of types of pasta. They can be categorized as long pasta, short pasta and filled pasta.

Long pasta is meant for creamy or tomato-based sauces and small bits of meat or vegetables. Types of long pasta include angel hair, buccatini, fettucine, linguine, pappardelle, spaghetti and tagliatelle.

Short pasta comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes from macaroni to bow ties. It is meant for heavier sauces and chunkier ingredients. Types of short pasta include elbow macaroni, farfalle, fusilli, gemelli, orecchiette, orzo, penne, rigatoni, rotelli, rotini and ziti.

Filled pasta is often filled with cheese, meat vegetables and/or sauces. They include cannelloni, jumbo shells, manicotti, ravioli and tortellini.

Two common types of pastas that have their own categories and lasagna (sheet pasta) and gnocchi (dumpling pasta).

Of course, there is much more to Italian cuisine that just pasta. Like France, wine and cheese are important as well. Seafood is an important aspect of Italy’s coastal regions.

Italian food terms

Expand your international dining vocabulary with these basic food-related words translated from English to Italian.

  • before-meal drink – apertivo
  • appetizer – antipasto
  • salad – insalata
  • first course – primo
  • second course – secondo
  • side dish – contorno
  • dessert – dolce
  • after-meal drink – digestivo

meat – carne

  • pork – maiale
  • beef – manzo

poultry – pollame

  • turkey – tacchino
  • duck – anatra
  • chicken –  pollo

seafood – frutti di mare

  • fish – pesce
  • shrimp – gamberetto
  • oyster – ostrica
  • shellfish – crostacei

meatless/no meat – senza carne

  • vegetables – verdure
  • fruits – frutta
  • eggs – uova
  • tofu – tofu
  • nuts – noccioline
  • vegetarian – vegetariano
  • vegan – vegano

drinks – bevande

  • water – acqua
  • alcohol – alcol
  • beer – birra
  • wine – vino 

other eating/dining-related terms

  • yes – 
  • no – no
  • good – bene
  • yummy – buonissimo
  • eat – mangiare
  • cook – cucinare
  • I’m hungry – ho fame
  • I’m full – sono pieno
  • more – di più
  • less – di meno
  • only – solo
  • please – per favore
  • thank you –  grazie
  • baked – al forno
  • fried – fritte
  • grilled – alla griglia
  • roasted – arrosto
  • steamed –  al vapore
  • hot – caldo
  • warm – caldo
  • cold – freddo
  • bitter – amaro
  • salty – salato
  • spicy – speziato
  • sweet –  dolce
  • allergic – allergico
  • bathroom – bagno

Italian food to try

Interested in learning about other cuisines around the world? Discover food terms from other countries here.

Hello! I'm Kristina

Kristina Reynolds is the Founder & CEO of Glutto and an alumna of the University of California, San Diego. She writes articles & posts for Glutto Digest with insights from fellow industry experts. Furthermore, she is the author of The Fittest Food Lovers: How EVERY BODY Can be Incredibly Fit and Still Enjoy Food, a collaborative philanthropic book with proceeds going to charities that fight world hunger.