Italian Food Terms – Mind your Language

September 27th, 2009  |  Published in Cuisines

italianfoodMeals in Italy usually contain no fewer than 3-4 courses. Meals are seen as a time to spend with family and friends instead of immediate sustenance, as such the daily meals can be longer than in other cultures. Some of the commonly used terms are:

Aperitivo: aperitif usually enjoyed as an appetizer before a large meal, includes Campari, Cinzano, Prosecco, Aperol, Spritz and Vermouth.

Antipasto: literally “before (the) meal”, hot or cold appetizers

Primo: “first course”, usually consists of a hot dish like pasta, risotto, gnocchi, polenta or soup.

Secondo: “second course”, the main dish, usually fish or meat. Traditionally veal, pork, and chicken are the most commonly used meat, at least in the North, though beef has become more popular since World War II and wild game is very popular, particularly in Tuscany. Fish are those which are caught locally.

Contorno: “side dish”, may consist of a salad or cooked vegetables. A traditional menu features salad along with the main course.

Formaggio e frutta: “cheese and fruits”, the first dessert. Local cheeses may also be part of the Antipasto or Contorno as well.

Dolce: “dessert”, such as cakes and cookies

Caffe: Coffee

Digestivo: “digestives”, liquors/liqueurs (grappa, amaro, limoncello, sambuca, nocino) sometimes referred to as ammazzacaffe (“coffee killer”)


Get articles in your inbox.

Enter your email address:

Join Us

Twitter Chatter