Correct Italian dishes Pronounce
We all know that Italian restaurants are widely available, often inexpensive, usually have a romantic atmosphere and the food is very delicious and particular. Besides, it’s well-known worldwide that Italian diet (and Neapolitan specially) is very healthy and balanced.
But, unluckily, not anybody knows Italian language or able to pronounce exactly the name of the food while ordering by an Italian Menu and I think no one wants to sound fumbling or silly in that circumstance. Also if Italian food is such a big part of American culture, by now with most dishes perfectly acceptable English pronunciations — surely there will be some dish butchered even by well-meaning diners. How many person makes a big deal out of rolling the “R’s” when ordering spaghetti carbonara, for instance?
I can’t know the restaurant you get ready to go or the dishes in its menu so, I’ll limit myself to the most common Italian dishes you possibly can find in the menu, but you may ask me for other with no problem….
As a real Italian voice is worth more than hundreds of tips, cliking on the dish you will hear the exact Italian pronunciation. Hope it will be pleasant and useful for all of you that like Italian dishes.
It’s a common appetizer (correctly called ANTIPASTO, meaning “before meal” in Italian, while ANTIPASTI is the plural), usually made with crouton and tomato. Please, don’t pronounce it “brewshhetta” because in Italian the “ch” seems a hard “K” with a well pronounced “s” ahead.
CAPRESE (it means coming from Capri)
A simple salad made with mozzarella, slices of fresh tomatoes and basil.
Well, probably in Italy we find many different recipe for the carpaccio. Beef carpaccio was created at Harry’s Bar in Venice in 1950 and legend has it that this dish was created for a frequent guest whose doctor had placed her on a diet forbidding cooked meat. Carpaccio di pesce (fish carpaccio) follows a similar concept, being prepared with very thin and marinated (uncooked) fish, the one I like more. Usually, different fillets of fishes are combined as Salmon, Swordfish, Alaskan halibut, Bream, Tilapia, Kingfish, whose long process of marinating brings the fish to become fork-tender and to lose that fish-smell that someone dislikes, especially children.
PROSCIUTTO E MELONE (also Cantaloupe or Muskmelon)
PROSCIUTTO E MOZZARELLA
INSALATA DI MARE
A seafood salad mainly made with octopus, vongolas and mussels.
POLPO ALL’INSALATA (salad of boiled octopus)
Note that the fresh octopus (not referring to the small ones) is a dainty seafood very common in the south Italy where there even is a rite to cook it. In the past when a fisher caught an octopus he had to kill it in a rude way – usually by some bite on the head or banging it against a rock to let it become tender. Once pulled away the entrails, it then had to be cooked in few boiling water dipping into and lifting up it a couple of times before to leave it. Nowadays, if we buy a living octopus, keep it in the freezer for a day at least, always with purpose to make more tender the hard inner tissue.
PANZEROTTI or CROCCHETTE (croquettes)
The potato panzerotti or croquettes are made with a mashed potato filling, stuffed with cubes of fresh mozzarella, cheese and finely chopped parsley, then breaded with fresh breadcrumbs before frying. While panzerotti are cylinder-shaped, croquettes can be small or big balls and made with rice and egg too. In this case we call them ARANCINI (from the word arancia=orange) that usually is part of the dish “Frittura all’Italiana” or “Frittura Napoletana” (Neapolitan fried) or “Fritto misto” (mixed fried) as someone call it too.
Sometimes you could read the word “Casareccio” or “Casarecce”… don’t worry because it should be a good sign. It’s a typical Neapolitan term used to mean “homemade” and referred to the pasta mainly, thus choose it with confidence.
Just dumplings! In Italy, these consist of morsels of pasta made with potato and flour and served in a tomato sauce. If you’re lucky, they’ll be “fatti in casa” (homemade) and fresher and soft. The “g” in gnocchi just modifies the “n” sound (sort of like the Spanish ñ), becoming nasally … “gn” as gnome.
Italian is tricky because unlike in English, vowels at the end of a word are never silent. English speakers tend to overcompensate for this by exaggerating the vowel sound at the end of a word, for instance, saying “minestron-EE”, while in Italian this last sound has a much lighter touch. If you don’t want bother with the “E”, you can pronounce it as “Mean-ehs-tron-ih.” or truncating it if you want, having the Americanized version of the word (with the silent “e”), but don’t add any extra vowels.
A flat sheet of baked pasta prepared in different ways and with different ingredients. Garfield’s favorite dish is comprised of lasagna, but is actually called at the plural “lasagne” in Italian.
SPAGHETTI ALLE VONGOLE (clams)
Sometimes you can find CAPESANTE (scallops) as clams.
SPAGHETTI (or LINGUINE) AGLI SCAMPI (lobsters)
Often called ALLO SCOGLIO (sea-rock to mean sea-life) when prepared with different fresh shellfishes or clams.
SPAGHETTI ALLA CARBONARA
SPAGHETTI AGLIO E OLIO (garlic and oil)
SPAGHETTI AL POMODORO
In this case the dish could be prepared with any sort of pasta and called as “PASTA AL POMODORO” (Tomato pasta). Some original Neapolitan or Italian chef could call it “AL FILETTO” (to mean a fast sauce made with fresh cherry tomato and oil simply). Italians call it “AL SUGO” too, where “sugo” refers to the tomato sauce. We even call the most elaborate RAGU’ as sugo sometimes. About ragù, let me mention the two most important ones we have in Italy, the Neapolitan and the Bolognese, the first called beef ragù because made with different pieces of meats. Neapolitan ragù is very similar to and may be ancestral to the Italian-American “Sunday gravy”, the primary difference being the addition of a greater variety of meat in the American version, most famously meatballs (whence spaghetti and meatballs), braciole, sausage, and pork chops. Bolognese, instead, is made with minced veal and carrot. The people of Bologna traditionally serve their famous ragù with freshly made egg-pasta tagliatelle (tagliatelle alla bolognese) or with their traditionally green “lasagna”. It should be noted that the Italians do not pair Ragù alla Bolognese with spaghetti. Wider shaped pasta are thought to hold up to the heavy sauce better.
SPAGHETTI AL PESTO (pestle)
A famous Genoese recipe made with a sauce of vegetable, consisting of crushed garlic, basil and pine nuts blended with olive oil and Parmigiano. Pesto means pounded, crushed, in reference to the original method of preparation, with marble mortar and wooden pestle.
PASTA E FAGIOLI (beans)
Sometimes you can find the name “Borlotti”, an Italian red type of beans we use to get a soup too.
PASTA E LENTICCHIE (lentils)
PASTA E CECI (chickpeas)
This is a common Italian type of pasta. Fusilli are long, thick, corkscrew shaped and the word presumably comes from fusile, archaic or dialectal word for “rifle” (fucile in modern Italian), referring to the spiral-grooved barrel of the latter. The word can also mean “little spindles” in standard Italian.
Another type of pasta. Fettuccine (literally “little ribbons” in Italian) is popular in Roman cuisine and is a flat thick noodle made of egg and flour wider than but similar to the TAGLIATELLE, typical of Bologna. They are eaten with “sugo”. Fettuccine are traditionally made fresh while dried tagliatelle is a commercially product. A popular fettuccine dish in North America is “Fettuccine Alfredo”, while spinach fettuccine are made from spinach, flour and eggs.
PAPPARDELLE are a typical Roman pasta similar but larger than tagliatelle and the name derives from the verb “pappare” (to gobble up).
CANNELLONI (from the word “canna=barrel or pipe” because their cylindrical shape)
They are made with fresh pasta served baked with a filling and covered by a sauce (ragù mostly).
PASTA ALLA BOSCAIOLA (lumberjack pasta)
Because made with mushrooms.
The name comes by their shape because tortellini are a ring-shaped pasta. They are typically stuffed with a mix of meat (pork loin, prosciutto), cheese or vegetable. Originally from the Italian region of Emilia they are usually served in broth, meat broth, either of beef, chicken, or both.
PASTA ALL’ARRABBIATA (letterally pissed off pasta)
So called because quite spicy.
By this word we mean any dish rice-based and according to the main ingredient we can get:
RISOTTO ALLA PESCATORE (fisherman, to mean with seafood) made with shelled claims, mussels, prawns, minced octopus and cuttlefish.
RISOTTO ALLA MILANESE (of Milan) which main ingredient is the saffron.
Pizza Margherita is the most common and known Italian pizza and surely the simpler and genuine one. Created in Naples in 1889 when the queen Margherita Teresa Giovanni, the consort of Umberto I, visited Naples with her king. Don Raffaele Esposito, who owned Pietro Il Pizzaiolo, was asked to prepare a special dish in honour of the Queen’s visit. Esposito consulted his wife who was the real pizza expert and together they developed a pizza featuring tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil. He named it the Margherita Pizza, after the city’s guest of honor. It was a tricolor pie that recall the Italian flag colors. Note that Mar-ghe-rita is spelled with an “e” and not an “a” — this is what distinguishes it from the Mexican drink Margarita, made with tequila. You must say: Marg-EH-rita, where the “ghe” is similar to the one in the word ghetto . About pizza or spaghetti, often you can find the vegetable “RUCOLA” as ingredient. If you don’t know it, I advise you to taste it first in a simple fresh salad, because Rucola has a particular sharp flavor you should try before ordering a Rucola-based starter or second-course.
This Italian recipe is a traditional dish of the autumnal period in Lombardy; it is made with veal meat in an only piece and red wine and so called because the meal must be soaked in the wine.
MOZZARELLA IN CARROZZA (literally meaning mozzarella on the couch)
Who doesn’t know the Neapolitan mozzarella? And do you know that it also can be fried?
To get mozzarella in carrozza, two slices of bread are pressed around mozzarella cheese, floured, dipped in egg and then deep-fried, so the mozzarella goes….. on board!
Frittata is an egg-based dish similar to omelette or quiche, enriched with additional ingredients such as cheeses, vegetables or pasta even. My mom made it with onions (frittata di cipolle) or with
thin slices of courgette (zucchini) but for we all the frittata par excellence is the one made with pasta. At that time, the (boiled) pasta in surplus wasn’t thrown away (!) but reused at the occurrence as a second course or as a good picnic dish, just making a frittata. Just a curiosity now. For Neapolitans the word “frittata” means a sort of mess too, a confused situation just like to this dish where the beaten eggs mix with other ingredients.
Panini is the plural word of Panini (sandwiches) so, if you want just one Italian sandwich, then you’d order a “panino”. The original should be made with Italian bread, usually round or tapered at the edges and stuffed with simple ingredients as prosciutto, cheese, lettuce, tomato or more elaborate as salsiccia (sausage) and friarielli (the typical Neapolitan vegetable “Brassica rapa subsp. sylvestris var. esculenta”), a sort of just-grown turnip tops, with a very unique taste, perfect fellow for pork.
A thin slice of meat, especially veal or poultry cooked in a rich sauce, usually of wine with seasonings. The most common recipes are probably Scaloppine al Marsala, made with Sicily’s renowned fortified white wine; Scaloppine al Vino Bianco made with white wine, and Scaloppine al Limone, made with lemon juice. However, there are also many variations on the theme.
POLLO or CONIGLIO ALLA CACCIATORE (hunter’s rabbit or chicken)
This ‘hunter style’ dish is a braise by some tomato and chilli.
BISTECCA (or chicken too) ALLA DIAVOLA (deviled Steak)
So called because the grilled meat is spicy.
BISTECCA ALLA FIORENTINA (T-bone steak Florentine style)
You should order it if you like underdone meat and hearty eater.
A favorite of Tuscan cuisine, bistecca alla fiorentina consists of a thickly cut and very large T-bone or porterhouse steak grilled over a wood or charcoal fire, and seasoned with salt and, sometimes, black pepper, and olive oil.
It is the best Italian cheese we all grate onto pasta and so called because coming from the Italian city of Parma (Prosciutto is also from Parma). Probably expensive because a cow’s cheese aged for a year, at least. Useless say it is delicious to eat as second course or appetizer, accompanied with prosciutto or any other Italian “cold cut”. Usually, Parmesan is the informal American word for this cheese, which is why the Kraft cheese in the green bottle says Parmesan, and not Parmigiano. But to be correct and make good you should say Parmigiano.
This is another traditional Italian cheese whose name comes from pecora (sheep) , because just a sheep’s milk cheese with a distinctive and strong aroma and flavour. This cheese is often used in some particular dish as “Spaghetti alla carbonara”, i.e. In Italy two renowned pecorino cheeses Roman and Sardinian.
PARMIGIANA di melenzane (eggplant)
Despite this name means “from Parma”, because made with grated cheese, it’s a Sicilian and Neapolitan recipe. Note that this word get nothin to do with “parmigiano” having as last vowel (we call it vocale) an “a” and not an “e”.
This meatball is made from an amount of ground meat rolled into a small ball, sometimes along with other ingredients, such as breadcrumbs, cheese, spices, and possibly eggs. Meatballs are usually prepared and rolled by hand, and cooked by frying or braising in sauce (as ragù).
PESCE ALL’ACQUA PAZZA (literally means fish with crazy water)
For “crazy water” chefs mean a mix of oil, cherry tomatoes, parsley, garlic, lemon juice and water with which the fresh fish must cook together. It’s a healthy recipe giving to the fish a tender taste.
Most Italians end their meal with a coffee, the most widespread and appreciated drink.
The word “espresso” means “FAST” (as express) in Italian, because the coffee machines in the coffee bar do it in a faster and concentrated way, compared with the ordinary coffee made at home by the traditional coffee makers. Anyway, note that in this word there’s no “X” but three well-pronounced “s”, instead! Express in not and Italian word and quite different from the Espresso coffee we mean here. Also, this totally doesn’t matter when dining in America, but if you ever find yourself on a date in Italy, don’t order a cappuccino (coffee + milk) after dinner, that’s only a breakfast drink. Remember that for Italians, children even, the milk just is not a drink given during whichever meal.
FYI, biscotti (cookies) is the plural of biscuit and since no one will order just one biscuit only, it’s common to say biscotti.
TIRAMISU’ (literally raise me up!)
A dessert consisting of layers of lady fingers soaked in coffee and liqueur and a cream made up of mascarpone cheese, eggs and sugar, covered with powdered chocolate.
CROSTATA (tart or pie)
A crostata is an Italian baked dessert tart, and a form of pie. The jams that are traditionally used as a filling are cherries, peaches, apricots, berries. The crostata can also be blind-baked and then filled with pastry cream (crema pasticcera) topped with pieces of fresh fruit; this is called crostata di frutta (fruits). A typical central Italian variety replaces jam with ricotta mixed with sugar, cocoa or pieces of chocolate and anisetta; this is called crostata di ricotta.
A creamy set dessert similar to the BUDINO (from English pudding, with influence from French boudin).
ZUPPA INGLESE (literally English soup)
This dessert, often gets translated as “trifle”, gets nothing to do with “soup” but comes from the verb “inzuppare” which means “to dunk”. It is a layered dessert like trifle with pan di spagna (sponge cake) or soft biscuits known as savoiardi (ladyfingers) dipped in liqueur.
At the restaurant, for Amaro we mean whatever spirit drink or after meals (bitter) liqueur also if it’s in fashion to drink here a “grappa” or a chilled “limoncello”, especially after the dessert.
In the end…. when in doubt, pronounce slowly every syllable, simply.
If you’re unsure of how to attack a word — say, “carpaccio,” “amatriciana” or “peperoncino,” just remember that there are no silent vowels in Italian, and usually the words are spelled phonetically (unlike English!). Our “c” is your “ch,” while our “ch” is a “k” — but beyond that, word pronunciation is pretty straight forward. But also remember that few mistakes are so egregious as to actually be a turn-off to your date. Try to pronounce things correctly when possible, but no one expects you to actually be fluent. You’re not an Italian, merely an American who knows his or her way around an Italian menu.
Remember, all this is told by an Italian guy living in Naples… so trust in me.