Saying ‘Buon Apetito’ Is Not Enough, Get To Know The Italian Lingo Of Food

Want to feel like a pro the next time you’re at an Italian restaurant or scrolling through an Italian recipe? We’ve got just the thing. Here’s our handy guide to understanding the most commonly used Italian cooking lingo that’ll help you navigate those Italian menus with ease.


We say ‘appetizers’, the Italians say ‘antipasto’. When literally translated, antipasto means ‘before the meal’. In Italy, antipasto is served at the table at the beginning of the meal. It’s supposed to awaken the tastebuds and whet your appetite. Typically, this includes bowls of olives, cured meats and cheeses or simply some nuts, tossed in seasoning.

Add an easy antipasto to your Italian meal with our Sicilian Spiced Nuts, doused in Italian spices and cheese powder or our Truffle Lacquered Nuts laced with truffle oil and rosemary.

Al Dente

You’ve probably seen this phrase hundreds of times in recipe books — cook the pasta ‘al dente’. Literally meaning ‘to the tooth’, al dente is an Italian cooking technique that asks for the pasta to be cooked such that it has a slight bite. Not mushy, but slightly firm. This helps the pasta cook completely when you finally add it to your sauce.

Al Forno

This phrase refers to a dish that’s been cooked in the oven. The dish could be anything, ranging from a casserole to a pizza. Traditionally, this phrase is associated with authentic wood-fired ovens, where a large wooden paddle is used to safely slide pizzas or bread in and out.

Frutti Di Mare

The phrase ‘Frutti di Mare’ literally translates to ‘Fruit of the Sea’. A less fancy term? Seafood. This includes different kinds of seafood such as shellfish, mussels, clams, prawns and more. Italian chefs use ‘frutti di mare’ to cook everything from soups and carpaccio to pastas and pizzas.


‘Bianco’ is the Italian word for ‘white’. When it comes to Italian cooking, it essentially refers to any food that’s made without tomato sauce. So, pizzas without tomato sauce are called ‘pizza bianca’. In other contexts, it also means bland or plain food.


In Italy, this word actually means ‘a mouthful’, or a bite-sized piece of food. It can be used to talk about small, minuscule food items or small portions of food. However, in Italy and across the world, bocconcini is more popularly used to describe small balls of mozzarella cheese.

In Brodo

‘In brodo’, meaning ‘in broth’, largely refers to pasta served in a broth. It’s a traditional way of serving pasta in Italy, especially the kind of pasta that uses fresh eggs in its making. One of the most famous dishes of this kind is the Tortellini in Brodo, a legendary offering from Emilia-Romagna.

Quanto Basta

When you read this phrase in a recipe, know that it means ‘just enough’. Just as we use the phrase ‘to taste’, Italians use the phrase ‘quanto basta’, to describe how much of an ingredient must be added.


This word is usually used when talking about cured meats most often pork. This also includes both whole meats and ground ones such as salami, prosciutto, mortadella and pancetta, among others.


The ‘soffrito’ in Italy is a wholesome mix of chopped, sautéed vegetables that traditionally form the base of Italian soups, stews and sauces. This mix includes veggies like carrots, onions and celery and often contains garlic.

Save this article, so you won't have to constantly check Google translate. Scrub up your Italian to read more recipes by Italian nonnas out there, and start cooking Italian food

Follow us on Instagram @sorrentina_honestlyitalian to learn more about the Italian cuisine.

Also Read - ‘Less is more’: Understanding How The Italians Eat

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