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The Definitive Guide for Italian Food Words

This is a comprehensive, but not exhausting Glossary of Italian food words. Here we will add all our knowledge of Italian words and the meaning of them in English.

Learn about Italian culture

Whether you are an Italian food lover or just want to know the names of famous Italian foods, we want to spread the Italian culture all over the world, and by explaining what we know about it, hopefully will help people to fall in love with Italy as much as we are!

Learning these words will also help you if you plan to visit Italian restaurants and know what the terms mean in the Italian menus since not all restaurants in Italy have translated menus.

This dictionary is in alphabetic order.

Our sources to make this guide were based firstly my (Lucas’) personal knowledge of the Italian language and my experiences living there, Garrubo, Cellartours and Gayot.


Aceto: it means vinegar

Al dente: It refers to the perfect cooking point of pasta. It means the pasta is tender but firm in the inside

Aglio: garlic clove

Agnolotti: crescent-shaped, meat-filled pasta

Agrodolce: bitter sweet flavors or sweet and sour

Amaretti: a dessert macarons made with almonds

Anatra: a duck

Antipasto, antipasti: It’s the appetizers of an Italian meal. It is traditionally a charcuterie board with cured meats, olives, bread, various cheeses, pickled vegetables etc

Aragosta: a lobster

Arrosto: means a preparation of roasted meat

Aperitivo: Begins the meal. You can expect to received cocktails, prosecco, champagne, or wine. It’s also includes Antipasti, or the appetizers, while await for the next course



Bagna cauda: it’s a garlic and anchovies dip for raw vegetables

Birra: it means beer

Biscotti: it translates to cookies, crackers

Bistecca: it’s a T-bone steak. Normally grilled and served alla fiorentina or alla milanese, per example

Besciamella: béchamel sauce made from milk

Bolognese: a heavy meaty sauce made for pasta and lasagne

Bresaola: dark red, aged type of cured meat, served thinly sliced with lemon juice or olives as an antipasti

Bruschetta: toasted garlic bread topped with tomatoes

Bucatini: it’s a pasta type, hollow spaghetti

Braciole: it’s a rolled meat dish traditionally stuffed with ricotta, eggs and ham. Check out our Braciole



Calamari: it translates to squid

Calzone: stuffed pizza-dough turnover

Cannellini: a type of Italian white beans

Cannelloni: cylindrical shaped pasta

Cappelletti: a shape of pasta, stuffed with meat or cheese

Carbonara: a classic pasta sauce made with guanciale, eggs and hard cheese. Check out our Gnocchi Carbonara

Carpaccio: antipasti dish made of very thin slices of raw meat

Cassata: sicilian dessert. It’s a cake moistened with fruit juices or liqueur and covered with ricotta cheese and candied fruits

Cena: a regular supper dinner

Ciabatta: a type of white bread

Conchiglie: shell-shaped pasta

Coppa: pork meat dry-aged and sliced very thin

Contorni: This are side dishes served alongside secondi piatti (second courses). Generally vegetarian.

Costata: it means rib steak

Crostata: it means tart. Check out out Crostata di Frutta



(spaghetti fra) Diavolo: a pasta sauce made from tomatoes and chillies

Dolce: it means dessert.

Digestivi: It’s an alcoholic drink served to close a proper Italian meal, like limoncello, amaretto liqueurs which helps with the digestion



Fagioli: any type of beans

Farfalle: a type of pasta, bow-tie style

Fior di latte: a type of mozzarella cheese made from cow’s milk

(alla) Fiorentina: a dish made of grilled T-bone steak with pepper and olive oil

Frittata: Italian turned omelet

Frutti di mare: translates to seafood

Funghi: it means mushrooms

Fusilli: a type of pasta, spiral-shaped

Formaggio: It means cheese



Garganelli: a type of pasta, but egg based. It’s similar to penne

Gamberi: means shrimp

Gamberoni: prawns

Gelato: traditional velvety Italian ice cream

Granita: a sweetened, and flavored grated ice

Griglia: the process of grill

Gnocchi: mini Italian dumplings dish. Check out our Gnocchi Carbonara

Grana padano: a hard cheese type, like Parmigiano Reggiano

Granchio: means crab

Guanciale: it’s a cut of pork cheeks, cured



Insalata: It translates to salad. Also means a dish served alongside secondi piatti (second courses) during Italian meals.

Involtini: a roulade, filled with meat, fish or pastry. Can be sweet or savory.

Imbottito: means stuffed

Impanato: means breaded

Insalata caprese: classic Italian salad made from sliced tomatoes, mozzarella with fresh basil

Invecchiato: aged, seasoned, cured



Lasagne: A traditional Italian dish made with layers of sheets of pasta alternated with bolognese sauce and besciamella (bechamel sauce) and ingredients such as meats, vegetables, and cheese and topped with melted cheese

Latte: A coffee and milk drink. Check out our Banana Coffee Latte

Latte fritto: a fried custard dessert

Lesso: means boiled

Limoncello: a lemon liqueur

Limone: it translates to lemon

Lombata: pork loin


(alla) Milanese:  Veal Milanese is traditionally prepared with a veal rib chop or T-bone thats breaded and fried in butter

Macinato: it means ground; minced

Maiale: it translates to pork meat

Mais: it means sweet corn

Malfatti: a type of gnocchi

Manzo: beef

Maccheroni: macaroni pasta

Miele: it means honey

Minestrone: vegetable soup

Minestra: soup; pasta course

Mortadella: type of ham made from ground pork meat and flavored with black pepper, pistachios or berries



Negroni: a cocktail made of Campari, vermouth rosso, gin and garnished with an orange peel



Orecchiette: a type of pasta, ear-shaped

Osso buco: cut of meat, braised veal shanks

Ostriche: it translates to oysters



Pancetta: it means pork belly

Pane: it translates to bread

Pasticceria: it means pastry or pastry shop

Pappardelle: a type of pasta, large, flat, string of pasta

Pecorino a type of hard cheese made from sheep’s milk.

Penne: a type of pasta, hollow and ribbed short pasta

Pinoli/Pignoli: it translates to pine nuts

Piccata: thinly sliced meat with a lemon or Marsala sauce

Pignoli: pine nuts

Pizza: oven-baked, flat dough base, typically covered with tomato sauce, cheese and some meat or vegetable topping(s)

Pollo: it means chicken

Polpette/Polpettine: small meatballs, patties

Polpettone: a type of meatloaf, made from ground meat and spices

Pomodoro: it means simply tomato

Porcini (funghi): prized wild mushrooms, also known as boletus

Pranzo: it means lunch or dinner

Primi/Primo Piatto: It translates to first course of a meal. Normally the first course doesn’t contain any meat, instead, you may expect fancy pastas, risotto, gnocchi, soups, gnocchi, lasagne, etc.

Prosciutto: Dry-cured salted ham thats normally thinly sliced and served as appetizer.

Provolone/Provola: a soft buffalo’s milk cheese

Puttanesca: a pasta sauce thats quick-cooked tomato sauce for spaghetti that contains black olives, capers, anchovies, and red pepper

Pesto: a cold pasta sauce made from crushed basil, garlic, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and olive oil

Polenta: it’s a traditional cornmeal dish



Ragú: a slow cooked ground meat sauce, served normally with pasta

Ravioli: a medium sized pasta dumpling, usually stuffed with a paste, cheese, egg yolk and served with a sauce or broth.

Ricotta: a type of soft cheese made from sheep’s milk

Rigatoni: a type of pasta, large, hollow ribbed pasta

Riso: it means rice

Risotto: dish of braised rice cooked with savory ingredients like mushrooms, shrimp, cheese



Salsa (verde): a type of sauce made from parsley, capers, anchovies and lemon juice or vinegar

Sambuca (con le mosche): a star anise-flavored liqueur. Can be served with three coffee beans floating in it

Salsicce: a type of fresh sausage

Saltimbocca: a dish made from veal scallop with prosciutto and sage

Semifreddo: frozen dessert, usually ice cream, served as it is or with a piece of cake

Secondi/Secondo Piatto: It translates to second course of a traditional Italian meal. It’s served beef, meat dishes, pork, lamb, seafood and sausages.

Soffrito: It’s the Italian name of a base for cooking. A mix of onions, celery and carrots sauté in olive oil for a a few minutes.



Tartufi: it means truffles

Tagliatelle: A type of pasta usually served with a meat sauce

Tiramisú: a creamy dessert of rum-spiked cake and Mascarpone cheese cream

Torta: it means cake

Tortelli: a type of pasta dumplings stuffed with greens and ricotta

Tortellini: a type of pasta, ring-shaped dumplings stuffed with meat or cheese and served in a broth or in a creamy sauce

Trenette: a type of thin noodles, generally served with potatoes and pesto sauce



Vaniglia: it means vanilla

Vongole: it translates to clams



Zabaglione: a sweetened egg custard flavored with Marsala

Zucchero: it translates to sugar

Zuppa: it means soup