Friday, May 9, 2014

Make a Meal of It, Italian Style

Italian food is an extraordinary feast for the senses. Ranging from simple to hearty, sweet to spice, subtle to strong, each dish and delicacy is prepared with the freshest of ingredients. It's no secret that Italy's cuisine is incomparable, but you may not know quite how to enjoy it to the fullest. Here's a helpful guide to exploring and savoring Italy's culinary bounty.


"Pizza al taglio" - Pizza by the slice, typically a lunch item found at bakeries and offered in many different varieties.

Sputino - a snack, usually eaten in-between meals.

Apertivo - an aperitif type of drink, usually wine, which is drunk in order to stimulate the appetite before the meal.

Prima colazione - breakfast, the first meal of the day.

Pranzo - lunch, the midday meal from 1:00 pm to 2:30 pm, when activity stops.

Merenda - an afternoon snack.

Cena - dinner, usually eaten late, between 8pm and 11pm

Scarpetta - whatever is left on your plate is "scooped" up with a morsel of fresh bread.


Italian meals consist of 3-4 courses:

Antipasto - a started (hot or cold), meant to stimulate the appetite.

Primo - the first course, usually a soup, rice of pasta dish. This can be topped with a variety of sauces.

Secondo - the main dish, meat or fish served with a contorno (side dish) of vegetables or salad.

Dolce - Dessert or fruit and cheese, followed by coffee or a digestivo such as grappa.


A coperto is a cover charge, an unavoidable "add-on" that basically covers bread and water and is charged per person. Even though tax and services are usually included in the menu prices, it is typical and courteous to leave a small tip of around 10 percent.


Making caffe is an art in itself and ordering un caffe in Italy usually means an espresso. This means "to press," and refers to the pressure applied to the hot water forced through the ground beans, creating this strong, flavorful mixture, whose main variations are listed below.

Lungo (long) - More water (about double) is filtered through the grinds, giving a weaker taste, but still stronger than normal coffee.

Ristretto (restricted) - Less water, yielding a stronger taste.

Doppio (double) - Simply two espressos in one cup.

Corretto (corrected) - With a dash of liquor.

Americano - Diluted with hot water.

Macchiato (strained) - With a drop of steamed milk.

Con Panna - With cream on top.

Affogato - Served over ice cream.

Tip: When ordering a coffee in a bar, pay at the cash register first, then take the receipt to the barista, who will make your brew.


Gelato is the true taste of an Italian summer. Here's the scoop on the terms you need to learn before you lick.

Cono - cone

Coppa - cup

Con panna - with whipped cream on top

Gelateria - ice cream parlor

Granita - shaved ice with assorted fruit juices and sugar

Tip: Pay first at the cassa (cash register), then present your receipt when you order


Although there are many supermarket chains like COOP and Esselunga, shopping for food in the specialty shops makes for a richer, more interesting experience.

il Forno or Fornaio - bread shop
il macellaio - for meat
la norcineria - for pork
una pasticceria - cakes, pasteries and cookies
una latteria - for milk
alimentary - pasta, ham, cheese, general food
enoteca/vinaio - wide selection of wine
salumeria (pizzicagnolo) - for salami and other meat products
i mercati - markets, mainly for fresh fruits and vegetables

Tip: Food is sold by the etto (100 grams = 4 oz), the chilo (1 kilo - 2.2 lbs) or simply in numbers such as 2 bananas.

Italian food is surely an extraordinary feast for the senses. Start planning your vacation to Italy with Celtic Tours World Vacations

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