The Ultimate A-Z Guide to Italian Culinary Terms

By: Genevieve Mc Carthy / Last updated: December 18, 2023

Get the most out of your Italian food experience with our extensive A-Z list of Italian food. We have compiled this list of Italian food words so that even non-Italian speakers can enjoy reading menus and ingredients, further enhancing your Italian food discovery.

Distinguish “Cannella” (cinnamon) from “Cannellini” (white beans) and recognize that “fame” means hunger, not that the waiter thinks you are famous. We very much hope these Italian food names help you enjoy the delicious and varied Italian cuisine, Buon appetito!


  • Abbacchio – milk-fed lamb; lamb in general
  • Acciuga – anchovies
  • Acerbo – sour; unripe; harsh
  • Aceto balsamico – balsamic vinegar; the best quality is called ” aceto balsamico tradizionale “. read more
  • Acido – sour, acidic, sharp-tasting
  • Acqua – water
  • Acqua minerale – mineral water
  • Acqua pazza – poached white fish
  • Acquacotta – vegetable soup, usually spiced with peppers and thickened with bread, sometimes containing egg and cheese
  • Affettati – cold cuts, sliced meats
  • Affumicato – smoked
  • Agghiotta di pesce spada – fried swordfish served with toasted bread crostini and flavored with garlic.
  • Aglio – garlic; aglio e olio, literally, garlic and (olive) oil, a quick sauce for spaghetti of olive oil and sautèed garlic, sometimes with PEPERONCINO and/or parsley
  • Agnello – lamb
  • Agnolotti – ravioli – like pasta usually filled with meat
  • Agro – all with olive oil and lemon
  • Agrumi – citrus fruits
  • Ai Frutti di mare – a seafood pizza that may be served with scampi, mussels, or squid
  • Alici – anchovies often served fresh
  • Alloro – (foglia di) bay leaf
  • Amaro – bitter
  • Amatriciana – all’ (for pasta) with tomatoes, PECORINO, and GUANCIALE
  • Ananas – pineapple
  • Anatra col pien – Venetian stuffed duck
  • Anguilla – eel
  • Anguria – watermelon
  • Anice – anise
  • Anisette – anise-flavored liqueur
  • Antipasto, Antipastino – appetizer, appetizer course; antipasto all’italiana, prosciutto, salami, and a few pickled vegetables
  • Aragosta – clawless lobster; rock lobster; (langouste)
  • Arancia – orange (the fruit)
  • Aranciata – orange drink, orange soda
  • Arancini – Deep fried rice balls stuffed with ragù, mozzarella, and coated with bread crumbs – typical Sicilian dish.
  • Aringa – herring
  • Armelin – apricot
  • Arrosticini – skewers of roast sheep meat
  • Asiago – cow milk cheese produced in the alpine area of the Asiago, in the Veneto and Trentino-Alto Adige regions
  • Asino, Asina – donkey
  • Asparagi – asparagus; Asparagi selvatici – wild asparagus
  • Asprigno – somewhat tart or sour
  • Assaggio – a taste
  • Assaggi – little taster or small portions
  • Azzurro pesce – “blue fish,” including many of the stronger tasting, darker-fleshed fish, such as TONNO, SGOMBRO, ARINGA, PESCE SPADA, ACCIUGA


  • Bacaro – Venetian wine shop or wine bar serving an OMBRETA and CICHETI
  • Baccalà mantecato – Venetian specialty of boiled STOCCAFISSO beaten with olive oil into a thick cream
  • Baccalà / bacala‘ – salt cod, except in the northeast, is air-dried stockfish (STOCCAFISSO), and salt cod is known as BERTAGNIN.
  • Barbabietola – beets
  • Basilico – basil
  • Bavette, Bavettine – pasta similar to Linguine
  • Ben cotto – well done.
  • Bere – to drink
  • Bertagnin – salt cod
  • Bevande – beverages, drinks
  • Bibita – beverage, drink
  • Bicchiere – drinking glass
  • Bicchierino – paper cup for ice cream
  • Bietola – Swiss chard
  • Bigoli – pasta made with buckwheat or whole wheat flour, and sometimes includes duck eggs.
  • Biroldo – a type of Tuscan sausage with raisins and pine nuts
  • Birra – beer
  • Birra rossa or scura – dark beer
  • Birra chiara – light beer
  • Biscotti – generic term for cookies
  • Bocconcino – any bite-sized food, as the word simply means little mouthful; most often used for stewed veal; little fried rolls or balls of veal, ham, and cheese; small oval FIOR DI LATTE cheeses.
  • Bollicine – bubbles, perlage
  • Bolognese – alla outside Bologna, and especially outside Italy, the term designates a substantial meat sauce for pasta containing almost no tomato: in Bologna, the sauce is known simply as a ragu.’
  • Bordatino – Tuscan soup with corn flour, beans, vegetables, and (possibly) fish
  • Bosco – woods; wild; misto di bosco, mixed berries
  • Botte – barrel
  • Bottega – shop
  • Bovoleto – snail
  • Bozza pratese – Tuscan bread made with flour, water, and yeast.
  • Braciola – chop of cutlet, usually pork but also lamb, beef, or game (and even fish)
  • Branzino al sale – Sea bass baked in salt.
  • Brasato – braised beef or pot roast, often al Barolo which is red wine.
  • Bresaola – Salted air-dried beef that has been aged for three months from the Valtellina region.
  • Brioche – not usually the French brioche, but generically breakfast pastries; pronounced as in French, Brioche is also called cornetto because of its shape.
  • Brodo – broth
  • Bruschetta – toasted bread rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil, sometimes with tomatoes or other toppings.
  • Brustolini, Bruscolini – toasted ZUCCA (squash) seeds
  • Bucatini – long thick spaghetti with a small hole, almost always served all’ Amatriciana or alla Gricia.
  • Bue – beef
  • Buffalo, Bufala – water buffalo, the meat of which is eaten in some southern areas and whose milk is used for MOZZARELLA
  • Buridda – Seafood soup.
  • Burro – butter; pasta al Burro has only sweet butter and Parmesan cheese.


  • Cacciagione – game
  • Cacciucco – Fish stew from coastal towns of Tuscany.
  • Cacio – cheese
  • Caffe – generally coffee, but in a bar, the word used alone means EXPRESSO
  • Calamaretti – Squid
  • Calice – wineglass
  • Calzone – folded pizza with its origins in Naples.
  • Cameriere – waiter, steward; Cameriera – maid, waitress
  • Camomilla – chamomile, chamomile tea
  • Canarini – small artichokes (Venice)
  • Canditi – candied fruit
  • Cannella – cinnamon
  • Cannellini – elongated white beans; very pale light white wine of the CASTELLI ROMANI
  • Cannelloni – Cylindrical pasta served baked with a filling and covered by a sauce. Stuffings include spinach, ricotta, and minced meat.
  • Capellini – A very thin spaghetti-like pasta.
  • Capesante alla veneziana – Venetian-style scallops.
  • Capocollo – Thinly sliced dry-cured pork, similar to prosciutto
  • Cappalunga – razor clam
  • Capperi – capers
  • Cappesante, Capasante – scallops
  • Cappon magro – Genoese seafood salad with vegetables usually served with a creamy sauce.
  • Capra – goat
  • Caprese Insalata – mozzarella and tomato salad with basil
  • Capricciosa pizza – pizza topped with various ingredients, supposedly chosen at whim but which are usually artichoke heart, prosciutto, and mushrooms.
  • Capriolo – roe deer; venison
  • Carciofini – small artichokes or artichokes hearts, often marinated in olive oil.
  • Cardi – cardoons
  • Carne – meat, flesh (of anything); carne macinata, ground meat
  • Carote – carrots
  • Carpaccio – originally thin-sliced raw beef with mayonnaise dressing, invented and named at Harry’ Bar in Venice; now used for thin-sliced raw (or sometimes smoked (fish or other meats.
  • Carpione – a kind of trout. Fried and then marinated in vinegar, herbs, and spices
  • Carre‘ – roast loin (usually veal or pork) or saddle
  • Carrozza mozzarella – mozzarella between slices of bread, floured, dipped in egg, and fried
  • Casatiello – Neapolitan Easter bread, embedded with eggs embedded on top and decorated with crosses made from dough on top.
  • Castraure – small wild artichokes, most notably of the islands of the Venetian lagoon, available in spring
  • Caviale – caviar
  • Cavoli, cavolini, cavoletti di Bruxelles or Brusselle – Brussels sprouts
  • Ceci – chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • Cedro – citron
  • Cena – supper dinner
  • Ceneri – ashes
  • Cerfoglio – chervil
  • Cervo – stag, venison
  • Cesta – basket, any number of baskets -bag lunch, often sold at railroad stations or prepared by hotels on request.
  • Champignon – cultivated button mushroom
  • Chiacchiere – strips of fried or baked pastry dusted with powdered sugar, traditional during Carnevale, known by various names
  • Chitarra – Spaghetti-style egg pasta typical of Abruzzo.
  • Ciabatta – white bread made from wheat flour, water, olive oil, salt, and yeast.
  • Ciambotta – vegetable stew with potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, onion, and peppers
  • Cibo – food
  • Cicoria – chicory or endive, in many varieties; cicoria di Bruxelles, Belgian endive
  • Ciliege – cherries
  • Cinghiale – wild boar
  • Cipolla – onion
  • Ciriola – Traditional Roman bread, which is crusty on the outside and with a soft crumb on the inside.
  • Cocco, noce di cocco – coconut
  • Coda alla vaccinara – Oxtail stew typical Roman cuisine.
  • Colazione – sometimes lunch but usually breakfast, which is correctly prima colazione
  • Colomba di Pasqua – Tradition Easter cake
  • Conchiglie – Seashell shaped pasta.
  • Coniglio – rabbit
  • Coppia ferrarese – sourdough bread made with flour, fat, malt, olive oil, and braided.
  • Cotechino Modena – Sausage made from pork.
  • Cotoletta – cutlet (veal unless otherwise specified) usually breaded and fried, though geographic attributions indicate various preparations. See also COSTOLETTA
  • Cotto – cooked
  • Crescentina – bread typical in the Emilia Romagna region.
  • Crocchè – Similar to French croquettes mainly found in Southern Italy and Sicily.
  • Crudo – raw, rare; for salami and fish, often means cured.
  • Cremoso – creamy or thick, as opposed to liquid or runny.
  • Cucina – kitchen; stove, range; cuisine, style of cooking
  • Culatello – Cured air-dried pork loin of hind leg similar to prosciutto.
  • Cuoco – cook, chef


  • Dado – stock cube (Bouillon)
  • Desco – table; dining table
  • Diavolollo – spicy-hot chili pepper
  • Digestivo – Alcoholic drink taken after food
  • Dindo – turkey
  • Ditalini – Pasta that is shaped like small thimbles or tubes.
  • Dobos – Cake from Trieste
  • Donzelle – bread fried in olive oil (Tuscan)
  • Dragoncello – tarragon


  • Equino – equine: horse, donkey, or mule; carne equina, horse meat


  • Fagianello – young pheasant
  • Fagiano – pheasant
  • Fagiolo, pl. fagioli – beans
  • Fame – hunger, appetite
  • Farcito – stuffed
  • Farfalle – A type of pasta also called bow-tie or butterfly pasta.
  • Farina – flour; farina gialla, cornmeal (cf.POLENTA)
  • Fegato – liver, usually calf’s most famous served “alla veneziana”, sautèed with onions; fegato grasso, foie gras
  • Fettuccine – a popular type of pasta in Roman and Tuscan cuisine. Made from flour and egg into flat thick strands similar to tagliatelle.
  • Figa – liver
  • Figa garbo e dolce – liver breaded and fried, with a touch of vinegar and sugar; figa’ col radeselo, liver cut up, wrapped in sage leaves, and fried in butter (Venice)
  • Filetto – tenderloin, filet mignon
  • Finocchio – fennel, finocchio selvatico
  • Fior di latte – mozzarella like cheese and made from cow’s milk
  • Fiorentina – the famous Florentine beefsteak, a thick T-bone from the LOMBATA, ideally from CHIANINA beef, grilled very rarely over coals.
  • Focaccia al rosmarino – Flatbread made from focaccia dough, rosemary, olive oil and salt, sea salt. Typically served as an antipasto or snack.
  • Formaggio – cheese
  • Forno – oven; bakery
  • Fragole – strawberries
  • Fragoline di bosco – tiny wild strawberries. Both are served with sugar and lemon juice or with CREMA GELATO, or, much more rarely, with balsamic vinegar.
  • Fragolino – read sea bream
  • Frantoio – olive press
  • Frittata – an omelet that has been turned over, not folded in half
  • Frutti di mare – shellfish
  • Fuori stagione – aout of season
  • Fusilli – Style of pasta formed into corkscrew shapes.


  • Gallo – cock, rooster
  • Gambero – shrimp; gambero di fiume, cloves
  • Garganelli – An egg-based pasta that is very similar to penne.
  • Gassato, gasato – carbonated
  • Gattuccio – dogfish (small shark)
  • Ginepro – juniper
  • Gnocchi – Small dumplings made from semolina and stuffed with potato
  • Grano padano – Parmesan like cheese from the Po Valley, Denominazione di Origine
  • Granchio – crab
  • Granelli – veal testicles; meatballs
  • Grano – grain; wheat
  • Granoturco – sweet corn
  • Grigette – small snails
  • Griglia – grill; alla griglia, grilled or broiled
  • Guanciale – Cured pork cheeks.
  • Gusto – flavor (e.g., ice cream); taste; pleasure


  • Imbottito – stuffed
  • Impanato – breaded
  • Indiviola – a wild endive
  • Insalata caprese – sliced tomatoes and mozzarella with fresh basil
  • Invecchiato – aged, seasoned


  • Kasher – kosher


  • Lamponi– raspberries
  • Lampreda – lamprey
  • Lardo – cured pork fat; fatty bacon, fat back; lardo rosa di Colonnata, a particularly prized type
  • Lasagne – A pasta dish made with layers of pasta alternated with sauces and ingredients such as meats, vegetables, and cheese and topped with melted cheese.
  • Latte fritto – fried custard dessert
  • Lauro – bay leaf
  • Legno – wood; forno a legna , wood burning-oven
  • Lenticchie – lentils
  • Lepre – hare
  • Lesso – boiled
  • Limoncello – lemon liqueur, once associated with seaside resorts and sun-kissed islands, now ubiquitous
  • Limone – lemon
  • Lombata – loin
  • Lumache – snails, usually quite small and cooked in tomato sauce
  • Lupo di mare – lobster


  • Maccarello – mackerel
  • Macinapepe – pepper mill
  • Macinato – ground; minced
  • Maiale – pork; maialino da latte – suckling pig; cf. PORCHETTA
  • Mais – corn, swet corn; fiocchi di mais, cornflakes
  • Malfatti – a type of gnocchi
  • Mandorle – almonds; mandorla amara, bitter almond
  • Manzo – beef
  • Maracuja – passion fruit
  • Mazoro a la valesana – wild duck cooked in a terra-cotta pot with herbs, sardines, and capers
  • Mazzancolla – large Mediterranean shrimp
  • Mela – apple
  • Melagrana – pomegranate
  • Melanzane – eggplant
  • Menta – mint
  • Mercato – market
  • Merluzzo – fresh cod ( as opposed to Baccala’)
  • Mestolone – a wild duck
  • Miele – honey
  • Moleche, moeche – soft-shell crabs from the Venetian lagoon, usually deep-fried
  • More – blackberries
  • Mortadella – Luncheon meat made from ground pork and flavored with ground black pepper, berries, and pistachios.
  • Moscardino – a kind of octopus, usually tiny
  • Moscato – noce – nutmeg
  • Muschiata, anatra – Barbary duck


  • Negroni – cocktail of Campari and gin
  • Noci – nuts; walnuts; noce di cocco, coconut; noce moscato, nutmeg


  • Oca – Goose
  • Odori – herbs
  • Orecchiette – Pasta popular in Southern Italy, typically made with meat such as pork, capers.
  • Orzo – barley; a small barley-shaped pasta used in soup
  • Osso buco – Veal shanks braised with vegetables and cooked in white wine and broth.


  • Pancetta – Pork belly
  • Panforte (di Siena), or (Sienese) – cake with almonds and dried fruit
  • Pappardelle – A large, flat, broad style of pasta similar to fettuccine originally from the Tuscany.
  • Pastella – batter
  • Pastinaca – parsnip
  • Patanabo‘ – Jerusalem artichoke
  • Pavese – zuppa alla broth with bread, egg, and cheese (sometimes like French onion soup with egg instead of onion)
  • Pecorino – sheep’s milk cheese (the name comes from the Pecora sheep); the family is large and varied, but its members are often on the hard and sharp side. Pecorino Romano, a hard, sharp cheese, is one of the major pecorino cheeses; it is produced in a geographically limited zone, which includes Lazio and Sardinia and part of Tuscany.
  • Peoci – mussels
  • Pepe verde – green peppercorns
  • Pepe – black pepper
  • Peperonata – a stew of sweet peppers, onions, and tomatoes
  • Persa – marjoram
  • Pesca noce – nectarine
  • Pesca, pl. pesche – peach
  • Pesce serra – bluefish, mackerel
  • Pesce spada, pescespada – swordfish
  • Pezzetti di Cavallo – Horsemeat dish cooked in tomato sauce.
  • Piccante – piquant; spicy
  • Pinoli – pignoli pine nuts
  • Piselli – peas; piselli alla fiorentina, peas cooked with onion and PROSCIUTTO CRUDO
  • Pollame – poultry
  • Pollanca – young turkey
  • Pollo – chicken; pollo alla diavola, a chicken, split, flattened under a weight, brushed with oil and grilled.
  • Polpette, polpettine – meatballs, patties, including meatless “meatballs” of other ingredients
  • Polpettone – meatloaf, often cooked in a pot rather than backed.
  • Polpo, polipo – octopus
  • Pomodoro – tomato; pomodoro con il riso, tomato with rice, a large tomato filled with rice and baked, with potatoes on the side, eaten, usually in summer, as a PRIMO PIATTO
  • Pomplemo – grapefruit
  • Porcini, funghi – boletus mushrooms, cepes
  • Porco – pig
  • Perro – leek
  • Pranzo – lunch, dinner
  • Prezzemolo – parsley
  • Prosciutto – Dry-cured ham thinly sliced.
  • Provola – fresh buffalo’s milk cheese similar to SCAMORZA
  • Prugna – prune, plum
  • Puttanesca – a quick-cooked tomato sauce for spaghetti that contains black olives, capers, anchovies, and red pepper


  • Rabarbaro – rhubarb
  • Ragu – a hearty sauce, usually meat sauce, and subject to significant regional variation; cf. BOLOGNESE
  • Ravioli – Dumplings made from pasta and are usually served with a sauce.
  • Razza – skate (ray)
  • Ribollita – bread-thickened kale soup (Tuscany)
  • Robiola – creamy, rich white cheese
  • Rosmarino – rosemary
  • Rosticciana – pork cuts grilled on charcoal and seasoned with spices and vinaigrette.
  • Rotini – wheel-shaped pasta
  • Ruspante – free-range


  • Sale – salt
  • Salvia – sage ( herb)
  • Sambuca – anise-flavored liqueur, customarily served con le mosche (“with flies”), meaning with three coffee beans floating in it.
  • Sarda – sardine
  • Scalogna, scalogno – shallot
  • Scorfano – Mediterranean scorpion fish (rascasse)
  • Segale – rye
  • Sepia – cuttlefish; seppioline, tiny cuttlefish; uova di sepia, cuttlefish roe, which is white, mild-flavored, and somewhat scallop-like in form
  • Sfuso – (in) bulk; i.e., not packaged; vino sfuso is bulk wine.
  • Sgroppino – liquid sorbet containing alcohol
  • Sgusciato – shelled
  • Sidro – cider
  • Sogliola – sole
  • Soppressa – a Veneto sausage
  • Speck – a typed of smoked prosciutto
  • Spezie – spices
  • Spigola – sea bass, striped bass; = BRANZINO
  • Spina – birra alla spina – draft beer
  • Spinaci – (pl.) spinach
  • Spuntino – snack
  • Storione – leek


  • Tacconi – A pasta similar to tagliatelle, made from eggs, wheat flour, and bean flour.
  • Tagliatelle – A traditional type of pasta from the Emilia-Romagna, usually served with a meat sauce.
  • Testaroli – A flat pancake-style pasta made of water, flour, and salt. It is an ancient pasta thought to have its origins in the Etruscan civilization. And is sometimes garnished with pesto.
  • Testoni – young eels
  • Timo – thyme; thymus gland
  • Tiramisu‘ – literally it means pick me up; ubiquitous creamy, layered dessert of sponge cake with brandy and ESPRESSO, MASCARPONE with egg, and chocolate
  • Tonno – tuna
  • Tortellini – A ring-shaped pasta that is stuffed with a mix of meat, cheese, or both.
  • Torrone – nougat candy made of honey, nuts, and egg whites
  • Totano – squid
  • Trenette – A thin, flat pasta from Genoa and Liguria, which is similar to linguine.
  • Triglia – pl. triglie – red mullet
  • Trota – trout; trota iridea, rainbow trout; trota salmonata, a pink-fleshed trout


  • Unto – oily, greasy
  • Uva spina – gooseberry
  • Uvetta – raisins


  • Vaniglia – vanilla
  • Verza – savoy cabbage
  • Vitella, vitello – veal
  • Vongole – clams
  • Vongole veraci – small clams with a pair of tiny “horns” on the meat


  • Zabaglione – a dessert of egg yolks, sugar, and Marsala, or ice cream of some flavor, sweetened egg custard with Marsala; often spelled Zabaione
  • Zafferano – saffron
  • Zenzero – ginger; red pepper
  • Zucca – pumpkin; squash, winter squash; see also fiore.
  • Zucchero – sugar
  • Zucchini, zucchini – summer squash, zucchini


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Genevieve Mc Carthy

Further Reading: Discover More Related Blog Content

7 thoughts on “The Ultimate A-Z Guide to Italian Culinary Terms


May 14, 2020 at 1:40 am

Just pointing it out that CAMIERIERE is not food as the definition says


May 14, 2020 at 12:53 am

this helped me a lot


May 14, 2020 at 12:47 am

this website is soooo good! it helped me so much for my italian studies

Des Mc Carthysays:

January 21, 2019 at 12:14 pm

Many thanks, Kev. That is fixed now.


January 21, 2019 at 11:05 am

Cold cuts, not cold cuds

Italian guysays:

October 30, 2018 at 1:53 pm

Not much of the food is up there... Etc u don’t have tortellini

Rick Pierchalskisays:

December 14, 2017 at 6:08 pm

Now i have to memorize

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