How to Read an Italian Menu

Category: Uncategorized | Posted: August 21, 2020

You’ve been looking forward to dinner at the authentic Italian restaurant you’ve heard friends rave about. Walking in the door, you’re filled with anticipation and can’t wait to see the menu.

At first glance, though, you’re a little confused at some of the words. Do they mean what you think?

Although you’re probably familiar with plenty of Italian terms, a few might be head-scratchers. Don’t worry — we have you covered with our quick guide on how to read an Italian menu.

Common Italian Phrases Used to Guide You Around an Italian Menu

Let’s start by talking about some of the words you’re going to encounter before you dive into the mouthwatering dishes offered. Every Italian menu is a bit unique, but many use these terms:

  • Insalata: What is “Insalata”? “Insalata” means “salad” in Italian. Any foods listed in this section are basically salads. But the salads can run the gamut from something small to a plateful of Italian meats and cheeses. Sometimes, the word “Antipasto” is used in place of “Insalata.” A popular insalata choice is Caprese, boasting fresh mozzarella cheese and basilico, or basil.
  • Primi: These menu items are typically modest in size. They’re perfect for light eaters, or for lunch fare. Often, the recipes are tasty but not supremely complex. Primi dishes regularly lean heavily in the pasta category.
  • Secondi: Craving robust dinners featuring flavorful ingredients lovingly prepared by a talented chef? Head right to the Secondi section. There, you’ll find traditional favorites like encrusted salmon, rack of lamb and beef tenderloin with oxtail.
  • Dolce: Is your sweet tooth ready for some Italian custard or a sugar-dusted cannoli? You’ll find the delicious finishes to your meal in this section.

Italian Menu Translations for Individual Ingredients

At this point, you can work your way around the menu like you were born in Sicily or Venice rather than Atlanta, GA. Nonetheless, you may not recognize some of the ingredients frequently used to create Italian food masterpieces. Here are some of the most common:

  • Cipolle: This a blanket term for onions, and it encompasses any type of onion from white to red.
  • Acciughe: If you’re ordering a pizza in a genuine Italian restaurant, make sure you realize that this word means anchovies. Not everyone appreciates having these salty seafood delights on their tomato pies!
  • Salsa di pomodoro: Traditionally, you’ve probably seen “salsa” used in Mexican, Central American and maybe South American cuisine. This type of “salsa” translates to tomato sauce, which is prepared fresh by real Italian restaurant chefs.
  • Di giorno: This Italian phrase comes after another ingredient, such as “risotta di giorno.” It just means “of the day” and doesn’t indicate a special preparation method.
  • Bronzini: You’ll find bronzini heading up lots of pesce, or fish, dishes. Bronzini is the Italian word for Mediterranean Sea Bass, a fish with a terrific flavor. Bronzini may be served whole.
  • Pancetta: When you see pancetta, just remember that it’s an Italian cured meat that’s pretty much Italy’s version of American bacon. Italians like to use it as a companion in many dishes to rev up the complexity and richness of the meal.
  • Arancini: Hailing from Sicily, arancini are rice balls fried until they’re golden-brown and irresistible.

Of course, this guide only covers a bit of how to read an Italian menu. If you discover that you’re really in a pinch, just ask a friendly restaurant server to describe a particular meal or item in detail.

Ready for breakfast, brunch or dinner in Atlanta at a top Italian restaurant? Visit Allora for an outstanding dining experience — no translator needed. Reserve your table by calling 404-961-7370 or contacting us online.

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