How Order Food in Italian

How to order food in Italian at a Restaurant + Italian Restaurant Vocab

Table of Contents

I always teach my students how to order food in Italian because it is a situation where you will definitely speak, and knowing how it works and what to say 1) makes their whole experience 2) Impresses friends and family 3) Avoids embarrassing cultural differences.

Learn what the waiter will ask you first!

My favorite way to teach this is to focus on what the waiter will say. I promise, most waiters say the same short phrases below. They dont say “Hello, how many people in your party” but rather, “How many?”

Strømmen Script approach

That is why I take the “script approach” and make sure students learn what to expect – that way, the words won’t fly over your head. Most problems in speaking a foreign language come from not actually hearing what is being said to us. The words literally fly over your head (and you look back in shock). Quite the opposite, by practicing the script below (and watching our video), not only will you hear the waiter, you will have your answer ready – at your fingertips!

If you would like to take a few private classes with me, or another instructor here at Strommen do not hesitate to contact us to get ready for your trip! Our professional staff will be happy to help. If not, watch our video and practice role playing with a friend!



What do the different types of Restaurant names mean in Italy? Like Enoteca, Pizzeria, Trattoria etc?

There are many names for eateries in Italy, including Osteria, Trattoria, Ristorante, Tavola Calda, Vinoteca, Pizzeria, Pizza Rustica, bar, et al. Another night we will focus on the Bar and Pizzerie, but tonight our concentration will be the culture, tips, and tricks of what we would simply call a restaurant. 

Definition of Italian Restaurant Types:


What is a Ristorante? 

Un Ristorante is supposed to be fancier than all the others, like the difference between un hotel and un Pensione. (Hotels in Italy have amenities & 3-4 stars, whereas pensioni have 1-2). But with regards to Ristoranti the line can be somewhat blurry in touristy areas of Italy and in the American appropriations of the names. Ristoranti should have great service, tablecloths, and a large selection of food. 

What is a Trattoria? 

Trattoria and Osteria are more rustic, they are mom and pop places, with a limited kitchen, minimal décor, and the focus is on the food. This is the kind of place where they are happy when the whole table orders the same pasta dish because the cook is making it from scratch. 

What is a “Tavola calda”? 

– “warm table” like a cafeteria, the food is ready and you can eat it there or take it home!

What is a Bar?

Many cafes turn into tavole calde during the lunch hour to cater to business people (1pm-2pm)

How to make a “Brutta Figura” in Italy (Bad Impression)

  • Da portare via… “to go.” You cant do this! The portions are small enough that you eat the whole meal there.
  • Dinner starts at 8pm (If you show up at seven be prepared to say hello to the other Stranieri!)
  • Burro per il pane? Butter isn’t served, Ghiaccio? No ice either!

How to make a “Bella Figura” in Italy (Good Impression)

  • Order your courses in order – Un antipasto, un primo, un secondo e un contorno. Un insalata,  Un Dolce, un caffe, and then un digestivo!
  • Ask for “un piatto tipico” 
  • Don’t leave too big of a tip! A Euro per person is common…


When ordering make sure to say “as an appetizer, as a first course, as a second course” Usually Italians have an antipasto (appetizer), primo (First course: Pasta or Rice), Secondo with Contorno (2nd course with side – Meat and Veggies), Insalata (Salad), Dolce (Dessert), Caffe/Digestivo (Coffee, After Dinner Drink) in that order. You can order meat when your friend have pasta, but if you want it at the same time you should specify what course it is (for example Steak as my first course).


Italians like to use the verb “fare” to make for many things. Waiters will often ask, “what are we making” Che facciamo? Instead of saying cosa volete (etc.). You can answer with “facciamo” Lets make…



Quanti? (How Many?)

Uno, Due, Tre, Quattro (one, two, three, four)

Da bere? (To Drink?) 

Aqua minerale.  (Mineral Water)

naturale/liscio/senza gas   (Flat)                    gassata/con gas/frizzante (Sparkling)

1 litro? Mezzo? (1 Liter? 1/2?)

Si un litro di aqua minerale naturale. (yes, a liter of flat mineral water)

un litro di vino rosso della casa (pronounced caza) (A liter of house red wine)

bianco della casa (house white wine)

la lista di vini (Wine list)

birra alla spina (Beer on tap)

Che birra avete? (What beer do you have)

Subito! (Right Away!)

Allora, Per antipasto? (So, for an appetizer?)

Per antipasto vorrei… / facciamo* (as an appetizer I would like / lets make)

Antipasto Misto di verdura / affettati (Mixed veggie appetizer / cold cuts)

Faccio io (facciamo noi)?  (Shall we prepare the appetizer?)

fai tu! (yes, you do it! / Si, faccia Lei! = formal)

Faccio io (I’ll do it)

Per Primo (come primo / per primo che facciamo*)?

Per primo vorrei….(For my first course I would like..)

Gli Spaghetti cozze e vongole.

Le penne all’arrabiata

la carbonarale lasagne

Prendo lo stesso (I will have the same)

per Secondo? 

Per secondo vorrei… (For my 2nd course I would like..)

Bistecca (Steak)


Ben Cotto (well cooked)

Media rara / medio raro (medium rare)

che pesce avete?  (What fish do you have)

Pesce (Fish)

Agnello (Lamb)

Arrosto (Roasted)

fritto Misto

Alla Griglia (On the grill)

Calamari alla griglia 

al forno (Baked)

Straccetti con carciofi/funghi etc

Per contorno? (As a side dish?)

Con un contorno di… (With a side dish of)




Carciofi alla romana

In padella con aglio e peperoncino (Cooked in a pan with Garlic and oil and chili)

al vapore (Steamed)

Pattatine fritte 

Insalata (Salad)

Potrei avere un Insalata…

Mista olio aceto

Dolce? (Dessert)

Per Dolce Che cosa c’è? (What do you have for dessert?            

Per dolce vorrei… (For dessert I would like)

La Frutta

un Gelato

un Sorbetto

Crostata Torta

Mi scusi! Il conto per favore! (Excuse me, check please!)

Scusi? (Excuse me – FORMAL)

Prendo lo stesso (I’ll have the same)

da portare via! (To go – but never ask for a doggy bag)

Grappa? Amaro? Limoncello/ Caffe?

Amaro – Averna 


Italian Vegetarian Vocabulary:

1Sono Vegano I am vegan
2Siamo vegetariani che (piatti, antipasto/primo/secondo/contorni) ci consiglia? – We are vegetarian what dishes do you recommend?We are vegetarian what (dishes/appetizers/first courses/second courses/side dishes) do you recommend?
3Non mangiamo carne ne pesce, ma mangiamo formaggi, latte e uova. Che consiglia?We dont eat meat or fish, but we eat a cheese, milk and eggs. What do you recommend?
4Puo fare questo piatto senza carne?Can you make this without meat?
5C’e brodo di carne nella zuppa? Is there broth in the soup?
6È vegetariano?Is it vegetarian?
7niente uovaNo eggs


1Facciamo… (una pizza margherita)Slang for “I will have” It means: “lets make…”
2posso avere… _______?  Potrei Avere ___________Can I have _____? May I have ______?
3un bicchiereA glass
4un piattoA plate
5un coltelloA knife
6una forchettaA Fork
7un cucchiaio A Spoon
8un cucchiainoA Teaspoon
9tovaglioloA Napkin
10tovaglia A Tablecloth
11menù fissoFixed Menu
13copertoCover Charge
14vorrei / Voremmo I would like/We would like
15mi puoi portare ____ ?Can you bring me ___ ?
16mi puo portare _____(FORMAL) Can you bring me ___ ?
17che consiglia What do you recommend?


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