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Italian Cafe and Restaurant Survival Guide

For all those heading off to Italy this summer we've put together a useful guide to Italian food terms and how to order in cafes and restaurants.

At the Bar

And we're talking about a Coffee bar here not a bar like in the UK! You'll find bars all over Italian towns and cities typically on corners.


  • Caffè: This means coffee. But if you order this you'll get an espresso. 
  • Caffè macchiato: An espresso "stained" with milk. Hot foamy milk on top of espresso.
  • Caffè Americano: An espresso with hot water added and much like a typical filter coffee in the UK.
  • Caffè latte: An espresso with hot milk added but not frothy like a Cappuccino. You need to order a caffè latte and not just latte or you'll end up with glass of hot milk!
  • Cappuccino: Espresso and hot milk and frothed.
  • Caffè corretto: The literal translation is "corrected coffee" and it's an espresso with a shot of alcohol such as sambuca, cognac or grappa.
  • Caffè shakerato: Espresso mixed with ice and sugar and shaken to froth. Great for hot summer days.
  • Caffè con panna: Like a macchiato but sweeter and topped with whipped cream.
  • Caffè lungo: Like an Americano but stronger.


  • Un cornetto/una brioche: Italian style pastry/croissant
  • Un panino: A sandwich
  • Una focaccia: Toasted sandwich made with white pizza dough
  • Un ventaglio: Pastry in the shape of a fan
  • Un ciambellone: Plain or chocolate cake in the shape of a ring
  • Un bruschetta: Toasted bread with various toppings
  • Un crostino:  A smaller version of bruschetta
  • Un tramezzino: Soft white bread sandwich in a triangle shape typically from Rome and Venice
  • Una crostata: Jam, fruit or cream tart
  • Una pizzetta: Small pizza
  • Un toast: A toasted sandwich
  • Una piadina: Flatbread from the Emilia Romagna region

3 Golden Rules of Ordering and Drinking Coffee!

  1. Italian will only order milky coffees in the morning typically up to 11am. Order after this time and you'll get some strange looks from the barista!
  2. Double Trouble! You can order a double espresso (caffè doppio) if you want and you'll be understood, but it is not an Italian habit. Order a single and top up at the next bar in a hour or so!
  3. No sitting! Typically Italians will stand at the bar (al banco) and drink their coffee rather than sitting down.

At the Restaurant

Before you sit down

  • I would like to book a table for  (number of people) at (time).
  • Vorrei prenotare un tavolo per (numero di persone) per le (ora).
  • Do you offer vegetarian food?
  • Avete piatti vegetariani?
  • Do you accept credit cards?
  • Accettate carte di credito?
  • A table for  (number of people), please.
  • Un tavolo per (numero di persone). e.g. un tavolo per due
Ordering food and drinks
  • May I see the menu, please?
  • Mi porta il menù?
  • Do you have a (set) menu?
  • c'è un menù (fisso)? 
  • Excuse me. We would like to order, please.
  • Scusi. Vorremmo ordinare.
  • What can you recommend?
  • Cosa mi può raccomandare?
  • What is the daily special?
  • Qual è la specialità del giorno 
  • Is there a local specialty?
  • C'è una specialità locale?
  • What is the soup of the day?
  • Qual è la zuppa del giorno?
  • I am allergic to __. Does this contain __?
  • Sono allergico a _. C'è _ in questo piatto?
  • I'm a vegetarian.
  • Sono vegetariano/a
  • Appetizer
  • Antipasto 
  • First course
  • Primo
  • Second or main course
  • Secondo 
  • Cheese course
  • Formaggi 
  • Dessert
  • Dolci 
  • May I have ...?
  • Vorrei ... 
  • Is the sauce spicy?
  • La salsa è piccante?
  • I'd like a beer.
  • Vorrei una birra. 
  • I'd like a glass of red wine.
  • Vorrei una bichiere di vino rosso.
  • I'd like some water.
  • Vorrei dell'aqua.
A few phrases that a waiter might ask your:
  • Would you like to order some drinks to start with?
  • Vuole iniziare ad ordinare da bere?
  • What would you like to order?
  • Cosa vorrebbe ordinare?
  • Would you like to order?
  • Cosa desidera ordinare?
  • What would you like?
  • Cosa desidera?
  • What would you like to eat?
  • Cosa desidera mangiare?
  • Have you decided already?
  • Has già deciso?

And a few ways you might like to respond to the waiter:

  • Yes, please
  • Sì, prego
  • One moment, please.
  • Un momento, per favore
  • I don't know yet.
  • No lo so ancora

Before you leave:

  • The bill, please.
  • Il conto, per favore
  • Can we have the bill?
  • possiamo avere il conto? 
  • I would like to pay, please.
  • Vorrei pagare, per favore.

And lots of food vocabulary...

Acciughe: Anchovies

Agnello: Lamb

Anitra: Duck

Antipasto misto: Mixed appetizers

Aragosta: Lobster

Arancia: Orange

Asparagi: Asparagus

Bistecca: Steak

Brodo: Broth

Burro: Butter

Calamari: Squid

Carciofi: Artichokes

Caroti: Carrots

Carne: Meat

Cavolfiori: Cauliflower

Ceci: Chick peas

Cervo: Venison

Ciliege: Cherries

Coniglio: Rabbit

Crema inglese: Custard

Fagiano: Pheasant

Fichi: Figs

Finocchio: Fennel

Fragole: Strawberries

Frittata: Omelette

Frutti di mare: Shellfish

Fungi: Mushrooms

Grancho: Crab

Grasso: Fat

Lattuga: Lettuce

Lenticchi: Lentles

Lumache: Snails

Macedonia (di frutta): Fresh fruit salad

Mandorla: Almonds

Manzo: Beef

Mela: Apple

Melanzana: Eggplant

Olio di olive: Olive oil

Ostriche: Oysters

Pancetta: Bacon

Patate: Potatoes

Pepe nero: Black pepper

Pepe rosso: Hot red peppers

Peperoni: Peppers

Pesche: Fish

Piselli: Peas

Polipo: Octopus

Pollo: Chicken

Prociutto cotto: Cooked ham

Prociutto crudo: Cured ham

Quaglia: Quail

Riso: Rice

Sale: Salt

Salsiccia: Sausage

Salsa/Sugo: Sauce

Sformato: Pie

Tacchino: Turkey

Tartufi: Truffles

Tonno: Tuna

Uova: Egg

Verdura: Vegetable

Vitello: Veal

Vongole: Clams

Zuppa: Soup


We hope this helps you to get by in Italian when you head off to Italy. If you need more help then we have Italian tutors in London and throughout the UK who can help you learn Italian.


This post first appeared on Spanish Tutor In London Shows You The Light Of Knowledge, please read the originial post: here

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Italian Cafe and Restaurant Survival Guide


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