Italian Food Terms

Interested in knowing the different terms the Italians use for different parts of their meal? Find out more about the Italian food terms most commonly used in Italy.

There are many things about the Italian culture that makes it stand out. But if there is one thing that makes the Italians stand out from the rest is that they love to eat. Why wouldn’t they? With such a wonderfully rich cuisine anyone would go bonkers over the food. The Italians are serious about their food and their eating habits. Cooking is a skill of its own no doubt but the Italians put in great effort into eating as well. The Italian passion for food can be seen in the different terms they have developed for different kinds of food.

To start off with you will find the term “Antipasto” on a typical Italian menu. Literally the term means starters or appetizers that are to be eaten before the pasta. They consist of a wide variety of colorful foods that are served both hot and cold. Melon and tomatoes with prosciutto is amongst the most popular food items under this category. Lettuce and other green leaves are used as garnish whereas salami, coppa, zampone and mortadella are common as well. Olives, artichokes and mushrooms make the appetizers good to look at and indulge in as well.


Another term commonly used for the first course is “Primo”. This consists of hot dishes like pasta, gnocchi, polenta, risotto and other vegetarian delicacies. When it comes to pasta the Italians have an unlimited variety such as the spirali, farfalle, penne and conchigie. The differently shaped pastas come with their own special sauces some being light and others being heavy. The Italians cook all sorts of pastas ranging from fresh to dry.

Second Course

Next up we have the term “Secondo” which stands for the second course. This is the main dish of the meal. The main dish is bound to have fish or meat from chicken to lamb. Pan fried and casseroled are the two popular ways of cooking the main item for the secondo. Beef steaks like bistecca and the famous roasted lamb dish agnello are items that you would find on special occasions.

Italian Food Terms for Side Dishes

Italian cuisine also uses the term “Contorno” for the side dish of the day. The most commonly consumed side dish is sure to be a salad or some form of cooked vegetables. Traditionally the Italians take their salad with their main course. Beans, carrots and potatoes are the most popular vegetables that constitute the side dishes.

Dessert Terms

Formagiio and frutta is another one of the Italian food terms. This translates as cheese and fruits and is usually the first session of the dessert. In this session the cheese and fruit is served together. The most commonly consumed fruits include grapes, apricots, peaches and other various citrus fruits that are grown in Italy.

The Italians clean up the table with Dolce which means dessert. The Italian cuisine has a host of different dessert items from cakes to cookies. Almond flavored meringues, amaretti, panforte and pannettone are amongst the best of the Italian sweet treats. Of course no Italian meal is complete without a cup of espresso coffee known as Caffe in the country.

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