By Teresa L. Picarazzi

Whether you’re on a short visit to an Italian-speaking country or you’re planning to take up residence in Italy itself, knowing how to order food in Italian is essential. Eating out can be a lot of fun, especially if you know some basic vocabulary.

The Italian bar is really what Americans would call a café. There you can get breakfast (coffee and a pastry), snacks, sandwiches, and salty snacks to accompany your before-dinner drink.

assegno (ahs-seh-nyoh) [m] (check)

pagare (pah-gah-reh) (to pay)

soldi (sohl-dee) [m/pl] (money)

In Italian-speaking countries, as in most of the rest of the world, there are three meals a day: colazione (koh-lah-tsee-oh-neh) [f] (breakfast), pranzo (prahn-tsoh) [m] (lunch), and cena (cheh-nah) [f] (dinner).

The following phrases might help you when you’re eating at a restaurant.

  • Vorrei prenotare. (I’d like to make a reservation.)

  • Per che ora? (For what time?)

  • Per quante persone? (For how many people?)

  • No, non abbiamo prenotato. (No, we don’t have a reservation.)

  • Ci porti il conto, per favore. [Formal] (Bring us the check, please.)

Here are some food items you can order:

antipasti (ahn-tee-pahs-tee) [m] (appetizers)

carne (kahr-neh) [f] (meat)

cioccolata (choh-koh-lah-tah) [f] (chocolate)

formaggio (fohr-mahj-joh) [m] (cheese)

fragola (frahgoh-lah) [f] (strawberry)

frutta (froottah) [f] (fruit)

gelato (jehlahtoh) [m] (ice cream)

insalata (een-sahlahtah) [f] (salad)

pane (pah-neh) [m] (bread)

pesce (pehcheh) [m] (fish)

riso (ree-zoh) [m] (rice)

sale (sahleh) [m] (salt)

verdura (vehr-doo-reh) [f] (vegetables)

The following phrases can help you place your drink order.

  • Un caffè, per favore. (A coffee, please.)

  • Un bicchiere di latte caldo (A glass of warm milk)

  • Una cioccolata calda (A hot chocolate)

  • Tre birre (Three beers)

  • Un bicchiere di acqua minerale (A glass of mineral water)

  • Liscia o gassata? (Flat or carbonated?)

  • Un panino, per favore. (I’ll have a sandwich, please.)

  • Lo scontrino, per favore. (Receipt, please.)

  • Due cappuccini, per favore. (Two cappuccinos, please.)

Here are some drink items you can order

acqua (ahk-koo-ah) [f] (water)

vino (vee-noh) [m] (wine)

bere (beh-reh) (to drink)

birra (beer-rah) [f] (beer)

caffè (kahf-feh) [m] (coffee)

latte (lahtteh) [m] (milk)

You might want to use the following adjectives to when giving your cameriere/cameriera (waiter/waitress) your food or drink order:

calda/o (kahl-dah/doh) [f/m] (warm; hot)

fredda/o (frehddah/doh) [f] (cold)

dolce (dohl-cheh) [m/f] (sweet)

grande (grahn-deh) [m/f] (big; tall; large)

piccola/o (peek-koh-lah/loh) [f/m] (small; short)

Italians don’t drink cappuccino after breakfast time.