Italian food phrases lesson

The Best Italian Food Sayings, Expressions, Food Puns, and Useful Phrases



From famous Italian sayings about food that have been passed down for generations to useful modern phrases to use while dining or grocery shopping, the Italian language is ripe with food-related expressions that offer insight into Italian food and culture.

In this article, I’ve compiled over 90+ Italian food phrases from interesting to practical so you can get a taste of this delicious language. You’ll discover some of the oldest Italian sayings about food that highlight the cultural importance of food in Italy as well as modern phrases to put to use during your next Italian meal.

Oldest Italian Food Sayings 

Here are some of the oldest and most classic Italian food sayings that have stood the test of time. These adages highlight the important role food has played in Italian culture for centuries.

  1. L’appetito vien mangiando.

Appetite comes with eating.

  1. Gallina vecchia fa buon brodo.

An old hen makes good broth.

italian food idioms
  1. Una mela al giorno toglie il medico di torno.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

  1. Rendere pan per focaccia.

To give tit for tat” or “To give someone a taste of their own medicine.

  1. Chi va a letto senza cena, tutta la notte si dimena.

He who goes to bed without eating tosses and turns all night.

Famous Italian Food Quotes

Famous Italians throughout history, from writers to politicians to actors, have waxed poetic about food. Here are some notable quotes about the joys of Italian cuisine.

  1. “L’educazione è il pane dell’anima”.

Education is the bread of the soul.
(Giuseppe Mazzini – Italian politician and philosopher)

  1. “La fame fa uscire il lupo dal bosco”.

Hunger makes the wolf come out of the woods.
(Giovanni Verga – Italian writer)

  1. Troppo cibo rovina lo stomaco, troppa saggezza l’esistenza”. 

Too much food ruins the stomach, too much wisdom ruins the existence. (Alessandro Morandotti – art historian)

  1. “Si dice che l’appetito vien mangiando, in realtà viene a star digiuni!”.

It is said that appetite comes with eating, in reality, it comes from fasting!
(Totò – Italian actor – in “Totò al Giro d’Italia”)

italian food quotes
  1. “Quando sentite parlare della cucina bolognese fate una riverenza, ché se la merita.” 

When you hear talk of Bolognese cuisine, bow your head, as it deserves.
(Pellegrino Artusi, a renowned Italian author and gastronome.)

Italian Food Expressions & Idioms 

The Italian language is full of colorful food-related idioms and expressions. Here are some of the most common, along with their literal translations and real meanings.

  1. Sei buono come il pane. 

Translation: You are as good as bread.

This implies that someone is a good person, loyal and kind.

  1. Sei come il prezzemolo.

Translation: You are like parsley.

This is used when you meet someone often. The analogy with parsley is because it’s very commonly used in Italian cooking.

  1. Siamo alla frutta.

Translation: We’re at the fruit.

It’s used when you want to say that you are at the end of something, like a job, or you are very tired. The analogy is that the fruit comes at the end of the meal.

  1. Hai la testa di rapa.

Translation: You have a turnip head.

It’s like saying to someone “hai la testa dura”. Both mean you have a hard head and you don’t change your mind easily. The analogy stems from the fact that turnips can be quite hard and woody.

italian food expressions
  1. Questa e’ la ciliegina sulla torta.

Translation: This is the cherry on the cake.

This phrase is used to refer to something that happens that completes the situation. It’s the equivalent of the English expression – the icing on the cake.

  1. Parla come mangi.

Translation: Speak as you eat.

It’s used to tell someone to speak simply without too many complex words and structures. The analogy probably stems from the fact that we all eat the same way, independently of social status.

  1. E’ andato tutto liscio come l’olio.

Translation: Everything went smoothly like oil.

It means that everything went really well, as smooth as oil.

  1. Hai il prosciutto davanti agli occhi.

Translation: You have the ham in front of your eyes.

It’s told to someone who can’t see reality, very often because they are blinded by love.

  1. Sei dolce come il miele.

Translation: You are sweet as honey.

It’s a compliment used to say someone is really sweet, just like honey.

italian food proverbs
  1. Non rompere le uova nel paniere.

Translation: Don’t break the eggs in the basket.

This phrase is used to tell someone not to ruin your plans.

Now let’s leave the idioms, and poetic sayings behind us, and let’s look at some useful Italian food phrases you can use in everyday situations for practical reasons from dining with others to ordering food and shopping at a supermarket.

Italian Dining Phrases

When dining with Italians, you’ll want to know these common Italian phrases related to sharing a meal, from invitations to compliments about the food.

  1. Ti invito a cena.

Translation: I invite you to dinner.

  1. Rimani per cena.

Translation: Stay for dinner

  1. Sei libera per cena?

Translation: Are you free for dinner?

  1. Cosa c’è per cena?

Translation: What’s for dinner?

  1. La mamma ha fatto la minestra.

Translation: Mom made soup.

  1. Passa il pane, per favore. 

Translation: Pass the bread, please.

  1. Puoi passarmi l’insalata?

Translation: Can you pass me the salad?

  1. Ti è piaciuta la cena?

Translation: Did you like the dinner?

  1. Complimenti per la cena.

Translation: Compliments for the dinner.

  1. Grazie della cena.

Translation: Thanks for dinner.

italian eating phrases

Italian Sayings Before Eating

  1. Apparecchiamo la tavola.

Translation: Let’s set the table.

  1. La cena e’ pronta.

Translation: Dinner is ready.

  1. A tavola.

Translation: To the table.

  1. Lavati le mani che si mangia.

Translation: Wash your hands; it’s time to eat.

  1. Buon appetito.

Translation: Enjoy your meal.

Italian Phrases For Good Food

Italians have several standard sayings they use right before starting a meal. Here’s what to listen for when you sit down at an Italian dinner table.

  1. Che bontà. / Che buono / Che buoni.

Translation: How delicious. / How good / How good (plural).

  1. Il pane è caldo e croccante.

Translation: The bread is warm and crunchy.

  1. La caponata ha un perfetto sapore agro-dolce.

Translation: The caponata has a perfect sweet and sour flavor.

  1. La pasta è al dente e saporita.

Translation: The pasta is al dente and flavorful.

  1. La carne è tenera.

Translation: The meat is tender.

italian dining phrases
  1. L’insalata è ben condita.

Translation: The salad is well dressed.

  1. La frutta è fresca e dolce.

Translation: The fruit is fresh and sweet.

  1. Il formaggio è morbido e saporito.

Translation: The cheese is soft and flavorful.

  1. Il panettone è soffice e dolce.

Translation: The panettone is soft and sweet.

  1. Il vino è corposo.

Translation: The wine is full-bodied.

Other ways to say something is good:

Beyond specific texture and flavor descriptions, these are some all-purpose phrases Italians use to say food tastes great.

  1. … è buonissimo/a. | Ex: Il pane e’ buonissimo.

Translation: … is very good. Example: The bread is very good.

  1. … è ottimo. | Ex: Il pesto è ottimo.

Translation: … is excellent. Example: The pesto is excellent.

  1. … è squisito. | Ex: Il dolce è squisito.

Translation: … is exquisite. Example: The dessert is exquisite.”

  1. … è delizioso. | Ex: La pasta è deliziosa.

Translation: … is delicious. Example: The pasta is delicious.

  1. … è fenomenale. | Ex: Il cinghiale è fenomenale.

Translation: … is phenomenal. Example: The wild boar is phenomenal.

These can be used with anything you are eating, like torta or pizza.

italian phrases for restaurants

Order Food in Italian: Italian Phrases for Restaurants

From reserving a table to paying the check, here are useful restaurant phrases to help you successfully navigate dining in Italy.

  1. Vorrei prenotare un tavolo per due stasera alle 8.

Translation: I would like to reserve a table for two tonight at 8.

  1. Avete un tavolo libero per due?

Translation: Do you have a free table for two?

  1. Ci porterebbe il menù e la lista dei vini?

Translation: Could you bring us the menu and the wine list?

  1. Qual’e’ la specialità del giorno?

Translation: What is the specialty of the day?

  1. Vorrei questo (or the name from the menu) come antipasto, questo (or the name) come primo e un secondo di (name from the menu).

Translation: I would like this (or the name from the menu) as an appetizer, this (or the name) as the first course, and a second of (name from the menu).

  1. Mi scusi, quando arriva il cibo?

Translation: Excuse me, when will the food arrive?

  1. Possiamo ordinare il dolce?

Translation: Can we order dessert?”

  1. Il conto, per favore.

Translation: The bill, please.

  1. Posso pagare con carta di credito?

Translation: Can I pay with a credit card?

  1. Dove e’ il bagno?

Translation: Where is the bathroom?

Italian Food Phrases for Grocery Shopping

Planning to shop for ingredients at an Italian grocery store or market? You’ll want to know these food-related phrases to easily communicate with shopkeepers and other customers.

  1. Quanto costa un chilo di.. (name of ingredient).
    Ex: Quanto costa un chilo di patate?

Translation: How much does a kilo of… (name of ingredient) cost? | Example: How much does a kilo of potatoes cost?

  1. Mi dia un chilo di .. (name of ingredient).
    Ex: Mi dia un chilo di peperoni.

Translation: Give me a kilo of… (name of ingredient). | Example: Give me a kilo of bell peppers.

italian food shopping phrases
  1. Mi dia due .. (number + name of food).
    Ex: Mi dia due pagnotte integrali.

Translation: Give me two… (number + name of food). Example: Give me two whole wheat loaves.

  1. Avete dello stracchino (or any other ingredient or food)?

Translation: Do you have any stracchino (or any other ingredient or food)?

  1. Mettiti in fila alla cassa.

Translation: Get in line at the checkout.

  1. Dove posso pesare questi?

Translation: Where can I weigh these?

  1. Paga con contanti o bancomat?

Translation: Do you pay with cash or a card?

  1. Prego, il prossimo.

Translation: Next, please.

  1. Una busta, per favore.

Translation: A bag, please.

  1. A che ora chiude il supermercato?

Translation: What time does the supermarket close?

Italian Cooking Phrases

Spend time in an Italian kitchen and you’ll hear these common Italian words and phrases related to cooking techniques, tools, and ingredients.

  1. Tagliare le verdure.

Translation: Cut the vegetables.

  1. Preparare un soffritto.

Translation: Prepare a sauté.

  1. Far scaldare l’olio nella pentola.

Translation: Heat the oil in the pot.

  1. Rosolare le verdure.

Translation: Sauté the vegetables.

  1. Bollire l’acqua per la pasta.

Translation: Boil water for the pasta.

  1. Versare la pasta nell’acqua che bolle.

Translation: Pour the pasta into the boiling water.

  1. Scolare la pasta.

Translation: Drain the pasta.

  1. Condire la pasta.

            Translation: Season the pasta.

  1. Preparare il sugo.

Translation: Prepare the sauce.

  1. Mischiare la pasta e il sugo.

Translation: Mix the pasta and the sauce.

  1. Salare e pepare.

Translation: Add salt and pepper.

  1. Versare dell’olio.

Translation: Pour some oil.

italian food phrases
  1. Grigliare la carne/il pesce/il pollo.

Translation: Grill the meat/fish/chicken.

  1. Affettare il pane.

Translation: Slice the bread.

  1. Condire l’insalata. 

Translation: Dress the salad.

  1. Preparare un dolce.

Translation: Prepare a dessert.

  1. Sfornare la torta.

Translation: Take the cake out of the oven.

  1. Tagliare il panettone.

Translation: Cut the panettone.

  1. Preparare il caffè. 

Translation: Make coffee.

  1. Servire il dolce.

Translation: Serve the dessert.

Italian Food Puns

And to end on a lighter note, here are some silly Italian food-themed puns that would make anyone smile.

  1. Non farmi gli occhi dolci, che sto a dieta.

Translation: Don’t give me puppy eyes, I’m on a diet.

The pun lies in the phrase “occhi dolci” (puppy eyes), which is a play on words since “dolci” also means sweets or desserts. The person is saying not to tempt them with sweet treats because they are on a diet.

funny italian food phrases
  1. La mia idea di attività fisica e’ correre verso il frigo.

Translation: My idea of physical activity is running to the fridge.

The pun here is in the humorous twist on “attività fisica” (physical activity). Instead of referring to traditional exercise, it suggests that running to the fridge is the preferred form of physical activity, implying a love for food.

Italian food pun
  1. Vorrei che mi guardassi come guardi una pizza.

Translation: I wish you looked at me the way you look at a pizza.

The play on words is in the comparison of how someone looks at a person versus how they look at a pizza, implying that the person has a deep appreciation and admiration for pizza.

  1. Le mie farfalle nello stomaco sono al ragu.

Translation: The butterflies in my stomach are in ragu.

The pun is in the use of “farfalle” (butterflies), which can refer to both the nervous feeling in one’s stomach and the pasta shape. The phrase “sono al ragù” suggests that the butterflies are “in ragu,” playing on the idea that the person is feeling excited or nervous in a romantic context.

Italian chocolate pun
  1. Finché il cacao cresce sugli alberi, per me sarà sempre un frutto.

Translation: As long as cocoa grows on trees, it will always be a fruit for me.

The play on words is in the definition of “frutto” (fruit). While cocoa is not traditionally considered a fruit, the statement humorously suggests a broad interpretation, emphasizing the speaker’s love for chocolate.

As you can see, the Italian language and culture is steeped in passion for food and dining. Beyond just filling stomachs, these Italian food-related expressions give meals significance and meaning.

I hope learning these funny yet practical Italian phrases to use while eating, cooking, or shopping Italian style gives you a flavor not only of the cuisine but also the vibrant spirit of this country. From ancient sayings to modern puns, buon appetito!

If you haven’t already, consider learning these Italian food words next.

When you are ready to continue learning the Italian culture and language, check out these articles: dinner in Italy and the Italian alphabet.

Frequently Asked Questions About Italian Eating Phrases

What do Italians say when they eat?

Italians commonly say phrases such as “buon appetito” (similar to “enjoy your meal”), “che buono!” (how good!), and “delizioso!” (delicious!) when eating.

What is the famous Italian saying about food?

A famous Italian saying about food is “L’appetito vien mangiando,” meaning appetite comes with eating.

What do Italians say when the food is delicious?

When food is delicious, Italians exclaim phrases like “che buono!”, “delizioso!”, “squisito!”, “ottimo!”, etc.

What are expressions for good food in Italian?

Common expressions Italians use for good food include: che bontà (goodness), buonissimo (very good), squisito (exquisite), delizioso (delicious), fenomenale (amazing).

What do Italians say before eating?

Common Italian phrases said right before eating are “buon appetito” (enjoy your meal), “a tavola” (to the table), and “lavati le mani” (wash your hands).

What do Italians say to start a meal?

Italians say “buon appetito” or “a tavola!” when starting a meal.

What is Yum Yum in Italian?

There’s no direct equivalent, but “che buono!” and “delizioso!” express yumminess.

Is there an Italian version of Bon Appetit?

Yes, Italians say “buon appetito!” which has the same meaning as the French bon appétit.

Do Italians say grace before eating?

Most Italians do not formally say grace, but some Catholic Italians may cross themselves or say a quick silent grace.

What does pieno come un uovo mean in Italian?

Full as an egg. It refers to someone being very full from eating.

What’s the Italian proverb that says.. know my chicken?

The correct Italian proverb is “Conoscere i propri polli.” It translates to “Knowing one’s chickens” in English. The proverb means to know someone or something very well, especially understanding the character or nature of a person or situation.

What’s the phrase la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca?

The proverb is “Volere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca”, meaning wanting the barrel full and the wife drunk. It’s a saying meaning that one can expect to have everything.

What does le mani di burro mean?

Buttery hands. It refers to someone who is clumsy and tends to drop things. However, it can also mean having a skillful touch when it comes to handling delicate situations, much like the finesse of someone who knows how to assert their authority while maintaining a sweet and benevolent demeanor.

Is there a parsley saying in Italian?

Sei come il prezzemolo. It means “you are like parsley,” referring to someone who is seen everywhere all the time.

Italian tarallucci saying

The saying is “finire a tarallucci e vino” and means that an initially complicated situation ended well, similar to all is well that ends well.

What’s ottimo in Italian?

Excellent or wonderful. It’s used to describe really delicious food.

What’s squisito in Italian?

Exquisite or delightful. Another phrase used for delicious food.

What’s the Italian prosciutto expression?

Hai il prosciutto davanti agli occhi. It means “you have prosciutto over your eyes,” referring to someone blind to reality.

What are the must know Italian phrases to use at a restaurant?

Key phrases include: buona sera (good evening), vorrei prenotare (I’d like to reserve), il conto per favore (the check please), dove è il bagno (where is the bathroom), and ci porti il menu (please bring us the menu).

Alessia Spampinato