10 Italian Cooking Terms Everybody Should Know

Have you ever ordered from an authentic foreign restaurant only to be surprised by what you were served? In the past, we covered how to pronounce various italian foods to spare you embarrassment the next time you’re reading a menu. But what if you aren’t exactly sure of what those words mean? Perhaps you’ve ordered food before and thought you knew  what you were ordering, but the Italian menu describes a preparation method you were unaware of. Here we’ll go over a few very common vocabulary terms that you will commonly find on menus.

dish of chicken cacciatore
Pollo Cacciatore from La Buona Vita

Al dente: Refers to pasta or rice that is cooked briefly in order to retain some firmness.

Al arrosto/al forno: While these two terms aren’t necessarily the same thing, they are often used interchangeably. Al arrosto means grilled or roasted. Al forno means oven-roasted or oven-baked. Arrosto can also be used as a noun, literally meaning a roast.

Alla griglia: This is the most common way to say ‘barbecued’ or ‘grilled’.

Antipasto: Antipasto (and its commonly used plural form, antipasti) is a general term referring to the first course of an Italian meal. The singular form can also be used to describe a particular dish or appetizer. While the exact ingredients vary on a regional basis, antipasti will most likely include cured meat, olives, peppers, cheese and artichokes served on a platter.

Bianca: Literally translated, ‘bianca’ just means ‘white’. It mostly refers to dishes made without tomatoes that are normally served with them. For instance, pizza bianca is pizza but without the sauce.

Cacciatore: When translated, ‘cacciatore’ simply means ‘hunter’. But in the cooking world, it refers to dishes that are prepared “hunter-style”: served with onions, the occasional wine, spices, and tomatoes.

Crema: Literally meaning (you probably guessed it) ‘cream’, the term crema may refer to either creamy texture or cream as an ingredient.

Fagioli: This just means ‘beans’. Pasta fagioli = pasta and bean soup.

Fritto: When you see ‘fritto’ or its plural ‘fritti’, that means the item(s) are fried. 

Insalata: Simply means ‘salad’.

If you ever have any questions about the menu at La Buona Vita, don’t be embarrassed — just ask our knowledgeable waitstaff! We’re here to help you live the good life and if that means explaining a few preparation methods so you can order what you most desire, we’re happy to help out. Reserve a table today!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *