How to Order Food in Italy

If you are coming to Italy, it might be on your agenda to learn a few key phrases for getting around. I am sure that you can find the basics with the plethora of travel guides out there with phrases like “va bene” and “quanta costa.”

Here are the 10 food-related phrases you can’t do without during your next trip to Italy:


cup of coffee at tram depot in rome, italy

Please note that this is a potent single shot of espresso. If I had a dime for every time I witnessed a disappointed patron ordering a caffe and probably expecting a big mug of coffee, well, I’d have enough for an Italian coffee.

Usually, Italians have a small pastry “croissant” with coffee. And in Rome, this is called a “cornetto,” which means a little cone. But the rest of Italy generally calls a croissant a “brioche.” This way, you’ll at least sound like you’ve got some regional terms under your belt.


Again, Italians generally have simple lunches like a sandwich with cured meat and an aged cheese or a veggie with fresh mozzarella. When in Italy, eat as the locals do! Please save yourself a foodie lesson and do not ask for mayo or mustard. Italian food is flavorful enough without the need of those sauces!

Be aware that you will be charged for water (no free tap water here, folks!) and it comes either natural or sparkling. Unless you would like to avoid the nonsense and just have wine with lunch. The Italians won’t judge you, we promise!


Usually, the good restaurants require a reservation for dinner. We highly advise you call the restaurant that your travel research (or tour guide) has recommended, in advance of going so you can guarantee a seat.

This is essential.

This is a surefire bet to get the best value wine. And considering the cost (on average 6 euro a liter!) the quality will be pretty decent compared to any house wine you may encounter outside of Italy. (Okay, well maybe not places like France, but I mean the UK, the US, etc.). Don’t forget to specify the size: un litro, mezzo litro (half liter) or un quarto litro (a quarter of a liter.) You’ll probably only need to learn “un litro.” Right?


This will usually guarantee a freshly-made, in-house-made dessert. Not just some confection-made, pre-packaged, thawed-out “tiramisu.” Be willing to try local, seasonal specialties when approaching an in-house dessert of the day.

And the crucial pairing for any dessert….

holding up in gelato ice cream in rome

Okay, that one I threw in for fun!

If you feel that your chef did a fantastic job on your dining experience, don’t forget to express it! Let your server know to send the chef your “complimenti.”

Planning a trip to Italy? Consider taking a Food Tour! We organize tours for foodies in Milan, Florence, and Rome! It is the best way to orient yourself with the new city you are about to fall in love with! Plus, our guides can give you the best tips on where to continue your food and drink quest and apply these phrases.

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A family by the eiffel tower.