180+ Italian Restaurant Phrases and Vocabulary

Whether you need to compliment the chef’s delicious risotto, threaten action over suspicious mathematics on the check or just order food, it’s all going to go better if you have some Italian food vocabulary.

In this post, I’ll take you on a typical Italian restaurant experience from start to finish as well as teach you some key Italian food vocabulary.

If you’re planning a trip to Italy, these 180+ Italian restaurant phrases and vocabulary terms are essential to ensure that you have an authentic culinary experience!


Finding the Right Place to Eat: Types of Italian Restaurants man-in-red-jacket-entering-a-pizzeria-in-rome-italy

There are so many different places to choose from to eat delicious Italian food! It all depends on the time of day, what you would like to eat and the amount you are willing to spend.

Il ristorante — Restaurant

La trattoria  — Tavern
A little less formal than a ristorante, and more rustic.

La tavola calda — Cafeteria
Tavola calda literally translates to “hot table” and they offer a range of prepared dishes that you choose from at the counter. Side dishes often cost about three euros, and main course dishes (meat, fish, etc.) are a bit more expensive.

La paninoteca — Sandwich shop, serving panini (sandwiches; note that the singular is un panino).

Il bar / Il caffè — Bar/Café
These are small establishments that mainly serve drinks, as well as aperitivi (snacks/appetizers), dolci (sweets/desserts) and piccole pizze or pizzette (tiny pizzas). Note that prices are slightly cheaper if you choose to have your drink at the counter (al bar), and there may also be variance between inside (dentro) and outside (sulla terrazza) tables.

La pizzeria — Pizza restaurant/bar

Phrases for Entering Italian Restaurants

You’ll need a few phrases when you enter an Italian eating establishment not just for politeness, but also perhaps to get the attention of busy waiters.

Buongiorno — Good day

Buonasera — Good evening

Ciao — Hi (informal)

Avete un tavolo per due? Do you have a table for two?

Siamo in due / tre / quattro — There are two/three/four of us

Per favore — Please

Grazie — Thank you

Vorremmo mangiare… — We would like to eat… 

Dentro — Inside

Sulla terrazza — On the terrace

In veranda — In the veranda (a semi-enclosed space with view of outside)

In giardino — In the courtyard

Dov’è il bagno, per favore? — Where’s the bathroom, please?

Uomini — Men

Donne — Women

Zona fumatori Smoking zone

Zona non-fumatori Non-smoking zone

Non fumiamo — We don’t smoke

Non ci sono fumatori nel gruppo There are no smokers in this group

Non siamo fumatori We’re not smokers

È permesso fumare qua? Is smoking allowed here?

Note that by law, smoking is not allowed inside Italian restaurants, but you’ll likely be allowed to smoke if you’re seated outside. You should of course refrain from doing so if you’re seated near non-smokers.

Meals and Courses in Italian Restaurants


Once you are in the restaurant and settled, what will you be ordering? It depends on the time of day!

La prima colazione — Breakfast
In Italy, breakfast is light and simple. It usually consists of a pastry and an espresso or cappuccino.

Il pranzo — Lunch
For many, it’s the most important meal of the day. Pranzo at home usually consists of pasta, a meat dish and a side of vegetables.

La cena — Dinner
Locals tend to make it a lighter meal. It’s eaten later in the evening, usually around 8 p.m. or after and is typically a slow and social meal.

When you are looking through the menu, this is how the courses will likely be sorted:

Gli antipasti — Starters or appetizers
Usually, you will find cured meats, cheeses and vegetables.

Il primo — First course
This will usually be a pasta dish.

Il secondo — Second course or main course (depending on what region you are dining in)
It consists of meat or fish. 

Il contorno — Side-dish

Il dolce — Desserts
These can be anything from tiramisu to gelato, panna cotta to zeppole and a number of other sweet treats.

Tableware in Italian

Is your table fully set? Do you need extra cutlery or plates? Here is what you need to ask for:

Il piatto — The plate

La ciotola — The bowl

La tazza — The cup

Il bicchiere — The glass

La forchetta — The fork

Il cucchiaio — The spoon

Il coltello — The knife

How to Order in Italian Restaurants

Once you’re settled and have had a look at the menu, it’s time to order! Below you’ll find the most common vocabulary terms and phrases for ordering food in Italian!

My recommendation for dining anywhere is to always order the most unknown thing you can find on the menu. In Italy this is a particularly useful strategy; there are many delightful dishes that you cannot eat anywhere else! 

Il cameriere / la cameriera  — The waiter/the waitress

Siete pronti per ordinare? — Are you ready to order?

Ancora un momento, per favore — One moment, please

Cosa mi può raccomandare?  — What do you recommend?

Prendo… — I will have…

Vorrei — I would like…

Important Italian Food Vocabulary and Ingredients 

pizza-on-a-plate-on-a-wooden-table-surrounded-by tomatoes-mushrooms-herbs-and-garlic

From pizza, pasta and bistecca alla fiorentina to a multitude of unique and traditional Italian dishes, there are so many delicious options to choose from!

To help you prepare, below you’ll find a list of some of the most important Italian food and ingredients:

La pizza — Pizza
Nothing beats the perfectly executed margherita—that is, the most basic combination of tomato, olive oil, mozzarella and basil.

La zuppa — Soup

L’insalata — Salad
You could get l’insalata caprese, with tomato, basil and mozzarella. Panzanella, or bread salad, is another delicious option. 

Le polpette — Meatballs

La verdura — Vegetables

I pomodori di Pachino — A variety of very tasty large cherry tomatoes from Sicily

Le melanzane — Eggplants/aubergines

Friarielli / Broccoletti / Cine di rapa  — Broccoli rabe/rapini
A dark green leafy vegetable with small, broccoli-like buds. You find it on pizzas and in sandwiches and pasta, as well as served on its own, fried with garlic.

Il sugo — Sauce
Sugo refers to pasta sauces (such as sugo di pomodoro, or “tomato sauce”) but can also refer to pan juices from meats.

La carne — Meat

Il pollo — Chicken

Il maiale — Pork

Il manzo — Beef

La bistecca — Steak

La milza — Spleen
Be sure to eat this if you’re visiting Palermo, where in the local language it’s meusa and one eats a paninu ca meusa (spleen sandwich).

Il fegato — Liver

Il pesce — Fish

Le cozze — Mussels

Le vongole — Clams

I calamari — Squid

Gli scampi — Shrimp

Il granchio Crab

Il riso — Rice

Il riso in bianco — Cooked rice (plain with nothing but olive oil)

Il risotto — Risotto

La pasta — Pasta

Il pane — Bread

Il formaggio — Cheese

La mozzarella — Mozzarella

Il mascarpone — Mascarpone (a type of cream cheese)

L’aglio — Garlic

Il basilico — Basil

L’aceto balsamico — Balsamic vinegar

L’olio d’oliva — Olive oil

Il limone — Lemon

Il sale — Salt

Il pepe nero — Black pepper

La farina — Flour

L’impasto — Dough

Il lievito — Yeast

Le uova — Eggs

Important Italian Drink Vocabulary 

Your perfect meal needs the perfect drink to pair with it! Whether you are looking to order coffee in Italian, alcohol, fresh juice or water, there are lots of options to choose from!

L’acqua — Water

L’acqua naturale — Flat water

L’acqua frizzante — Sparkling water

L’acqua gassata — Carbonated water

L’acqua del rubinetto — Tap water

L’acqua effervescente naturale — Lightly sparkling water

Il cappuccino — Cappuccino 

Il caffè — Espresso coffee
You will be served a shot in a small cup with some zucchero (sugar) on the side. For a more familiar coffee, order il caffè Americano.

La cioccolata calda — Hot chocolate/hot cocoa
In Italy, cioccolata calda is often made with cacao amaro in polvere (unsweetened chocolate powder).

Il succo di frutta — Fruit juice

Vorrei un succo cento per cento frutta — I would like a 100 percent fruit juice
The types of small bottled juices that are available in Italy that are 100 percent actual fruit are usually only ananas (pineapple), arancia (orange) or pompelmo (grapefruit). 

Il succo d’arancia — Bottled orange juice

La spremuta d’arancia — Freshly squeezed orange juice

Il digestivo — A post-dinner liqueur

La birra — Beer
La Nastro Azzurro and Heineken are considered two of the better beer brands in Italy, at least among the brands that are commonly available everywhere.

Una marca scadente — A shoddy brand

Una marca chic — A chic brand

Il vino — Wine

Talking About Wine in Italian (and Ordering a Good One!) woman-having-dinner-holding-a-wine-glass

If you’re passionate about wine, finding the right wine often requires more than asking for a vino rosso—you’ll want further descriptions to help you choose the perfect wine.

Il vino bianco — White wine

Il vino rosso — Red wine

Il vino rosato — Rosé

Effervescente — Sparkling

Un calice di vino — A glass of wine

Una bottiglia di vino — A bottle of wine

Il cavatappi — The corkscrew

It’s wise to memorize a few words for the type of wine you most enjoy, so that you can describe your ideal wine to a waiter.

Floreale — Flowery

Fruttato — Fruity

Secco — Dry

Velluto — Velvety

Giovane — Young

Stagionato — Aged

Robusto — Robust, high in alcohol content

Vivace — Rich, vivid, lively, spicy

Paglierino — Straw-colored

Leggero — Light

Pesante — Heavy, too strong of an alcohol content

Svanito — Opened for too long, spoiled

There are many more options for describing your wine in Italian, of course!

When you’re ready to raise your glass, you say:

Brindiamo alla salute! — Let’s make a toast!

Cin cin — Cheers (for congratulating someone or celebrating something)

Salute! — Cheers

If you’re dining with people who also speak a regional language (or dialect), I cannot emphasize enough how much more amusing your evening will be if you learn to toast like a local. Here are two local toasts to get you started:

In Naples: (Raising glasses) Aiz’ aiz’ aiz’, (lowering glasses) acal’ acal’ acal’, (bringing glasses together in the center) accost’ accost’ accost’, a salut’ vost’ — Up up up, down down down, near near near, to your health

In Sicily: Auguri e figghi masculi! — Congratuations, and male children!
This is a typical wedding toast that emphasizes the predilection for male children, but has been adopted for use in any toasting situation in Sicily.

Explaining Special Dietary Needs in Italian

Dietary restrictions are nowhere near as fashionable in Italy as they are in the U.S. or the UK. However, a few have been growing in Italy; vegetarian and vegan restaurants can be found in major cities and even some towns.

For those who really can’t eat certain foods, here’s how to express your limitations

Sono vegano / Sono vegana — I’m vegan

Sono vegetariano / Sono vegetariana — I’m vegetarian

Sono intollerante al lattosio — I’m lactose intolerant

Seguo una dieta senza glutine — I’m gluten-free

Especially useful for vegans and vegetarians is the contorni (side dish) section of the menu and the verdure (vegetables). There may also be some pasta dishes without meat or cheese (pasta con pomodoro fresco—pasta with fresh tomatoes, or spaghetti aglio ed olio—spaghetti with garlic and oil). You can ask for una margherita senza la mozzarella (a margherita pizza without mozzarella) or an insalata senza formaggio (a salad without cheese).

Cooking Methods in Italian

Now that you know what you want to eat, how is it going to be cooked? Here are common preparation methods you will find on the menu:

Al forno — Baked

Fritto — Fried  

Cotto — Well done (lit. “cooked”)

Crudo — Raw

Arrosto — Roasted

Describing Food in Italian

Here’s how you can describe fabulous dining experiences, as well as problems that may come up:

Squisito — Fabulous

Delizioso — Delicious

Gustosissimo — Tasty (more informal)

Fantastico — Fantastic

Buonissimo — Great

Troppo salato — Too salty

Manca sale — It lacks salt

Troppo piccante — Too spicy

Insipido — Bland

Bruciato — Burnt

Italian Phrases for After Your Meal

Once you’ve finished eating, it’s time to pay for the meal. It’s important to note that IVA, or sales tax, is included within the food and drink prices but may be also listed out separately on the check. 

Il conto, per favore — The check, please

Possiamo avere il conto? Can we have the check?

Vorrei pagare, per favore — I would like to pay, please

Pane e coperto (bread and cover charge); more frequently listed as coperto — A per-person cover charge (allowed under Italian law)
The amount of the coperto will usually be in small print at the bottom of the menu and ranges from 1 to 2.50 euros per diner.

La mancia The tip
This shouldn’t be on the check and is totally optional depending on what you feel like giving for the waiter’s service. In cheaper restaurants this might be just two euros per person, or rounding up the check.

Tenga il resto — Keep the change

Un errore nel conto — An error on the check 

Il conto è sbagliato — The check is wrong

Scusi, sono astemio, queste due bottiglie di vino saranno di qualcun altro — Excuse me, I don’t drink; these two bottles of wine must be from someone else

Vorrei vedere il menù — I would like to see the menu (to check the prices)

Scriverò una recensione su TripAdvisor — I’ll write a review on TripAdvisor 

Chiamo la guardia di finanza — I’ll call the financial police 
These are thus the most dangerous words that you can say to a business and should only to be used in extreme circumstances.

In Italy, it’s not very common to ask for a “doggy bag” for your leftovers, but if you really want to ask, be very polite, because you’re asking for something that’s not usually provided:

È possibile avere un contenitore per portare via le cose che ho lasciato? — Is it possible to have a container to take away the things that I have left over?

Grazie! Arrivederci! — Thank you! Goodbye!

Cooking in Italian: Measuring and Following Instructions

If you’ve enjoyed an Italian meal so much that you’re interested in making it at home, here are some common measures that you’ll see in Italian recipes:

Grammi — Grams (usually abbreviated to g in recipes)

Spicchio — Slide, wedge, clove, small bunch
For instance: spicchio di prezzemolo — a bunch of parsley

Cucchiaio — Spoonful (imprecise)

In Italian recipes, verbs are often written in the plural command form, which ends in -ate, -ete, or -ite.

Generally, to get back to a dictionary form (infinitive) that you can look up, you’ll just remove the -te from the end of the word and add -re.

For example:

Mescolate Mescolare — To blend, mix, stir

Here are some other words you’re likely to see (in their plural command forms):

Tritate — Chop up

Impastate — Knead

Versate — Pour

Utilizzate — Use

Scegliete — Choose

Trasferite — Transfer

Coprite — Cover

Friggete — Fry

Cuocete al forno — Bake in the oven

Bollite — Boil

Saltate — Sauté

Don’t be thrown when these command words have a couple-letter Italian pronoun tacked on at their tails (often l plus a vowel). These usually indicate that you should do something to the foodstuff.

For example, one might be told concerning one’s mussels:

Trasferitele in una seconda pentola. — Transfer them into a second pot.


So, there you have it!

You now have 180+ Italian restaurant phrases and food vocabulary to help ensure that you have the most delicious Italian culinary adventure possible!

Buon appetito! (Enjoy your meal!)

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