Useful Italian Phrases and Etiquette Tips for Going Out to Eat


Are you planning to learn Italian before your big trip? Below, Italian teacher Nadia B. shares some useful Italian phrases and etiquette tips for dining…

Yum, la gastronomia italiana (Italian cuisine)–the heartbeat of Italian life occurs around the dinner table, and you won’t want to miss out on all of the delicious foods and wines when visiting Italy.

Keep reading to discover some useful Italian phrases for going out to eat. Learning how to order and converse with your waiter in Italian will allow you to enjoy your meal to the fullest and practice your Italian pronunciation at the same time.

But before we dive into these useful Italian phrases, there are some important dining etiquette rules one must remember when traveling to Italy.

Italian Etiquette for Dining

In the Italian culture, eating is a way of life. Family and friend gatherings are often centered around food. Here are some major do’s and don’ts when eating in Italy.

  • Don’t expect the waiter to bring you the bill. Until you ask for il conto (the bill), the waiter will not bring it to your table. Also, don’t be shocked when the bill includes a small bread fee.
  • Do enjoy your meal slowly. Italians consider dinner to be a time when you relax with family and friends. There is no such thing as get a quick bite to eat.
  • Don’t cut your spaghetti. Whatever you do, never cut your spaghetti; rather learn how to gracefully twirl it onto your fork or go old school with a spoon.
  • Do arrive late. Whereas showing up late for dinner in the U.S. is considered rude, Italians are rarely ever on time. Therefore, it’s okay to arrive a few minutes after the appointed time.
  • Don’t expect breakfast. Unless you’re staying at a hotel that caters to Americans, don’t expect to eat a breakfast filled with eggs, bacon, and toast. Italians typically start their day with a cappuccino.
  • Do go where the locals go: Italy is home to some of the most delicious foods in the world. Don’t hunt down the one restaurant that serves an American cheeseburger—eat where the locals dine!


Useful Italian Phrases for Going Out to Eat


The first thing to learn are common Italian phrases your waiter (il cameriere / la cameriera) may use. For example, the waiter may say the following:

  • Cosa prende Lei? (What will you have?)
  • Cosa desidera Lei? (What would you like?)


If you are eating with one or more people, your waiter may phrase these questions in the plural to address all parties:

Cosa prendete voi? (What will you all have?)

Cosa desiderate voi? (What would you all like?)


In response, you can simply state the item(s) you want, or you can use a whole sentence:

Un piatto di ravioli con un bicchiere di vino rosso, per favore. (A plate of ravioli with a glass of red wine, please.)

Prendo il risotto ai funghi. (I’ll have the mushroom risotto.)


If you have specific dietary restrictions, the following phrases may come in handy:

Non mangio… (I don’t eat…)

…la carne (meat)

…il pesce (fish)

…le uova (eggs)


In looking at the menu and specifying what you would like for each course, familiarize yourself with the following words:

la colazione (breakfast)

il pranzo (lunch)

la cena (dinner)

l’antipasto (appetizer)

il primo piatto (first course)

il secondo piatto (second course) or piatto principale (main course)

la pasta (pasta; you will see different types such as le lasagne, i ravioli, gli spaghetti)

il contorno (side dish)

il formaggio (cheese)

il dolce (dessert)

le bevande (beverages)


When ordering your meal, your waiter may inquire whether you would like:

acqua gassata (sparkling water)

acqua minerale (still water).


In addition to water, you may want to order:

un bicchiere di vino rosso/bianco (a glass of red/white wine),

una birra (a beer)

un espresso (an espresso). *Keep in mind that, in Italian culture, un cappuccino is reserved only for breakfast time; it is not served after lunch or dinner.


When it comes time to pay, if you’re dining with your Italian hosts or friends and would like to treat them, you can say:

Offro io!” (It’s my treat).


To ask the waiter for the bill, you can say:

Il conto, per favore” (The bill, please). * In Italy, tipping is not expected since the charge for service, called il coperto, is usually included in the bill.


If you’d like to use the bathroom before leaving, you can ask:

Dov’è il bagno?” (Where is the bathroom?).


Becoming familiar with these common Italian phrases for going out to eat will serve you well. You’ll be able to communicate with the wait staff, order your meal to your liking, and participate fully in this quintessentially Italian activity: enjoying your food.

If you want to learn more Italian words and phrases, you might want to consider taking an Italian lesson before your trip!




Post Author:
 Nadia B.
Nadia B. teaches Italian in New York, NY. She graduated summa cum laude from New York University, with a double degree in Italian Language and Literature and Classical Music Performance. Learn more about Nadia here!


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8 replies
  1. Alex Trodder
    Alex Trodder says:

    I’ve heard that it’s very customary for Italian restaurants to let you enjoy your meal at your own pace. I think this would be a great time to savor Italian food and experience each bite. I didn’t know that breakfast was something that most Italians forego. I’m a big breakfast fan. I’ll have to keep that in mind if I ever travel to Italy. Thanks for the post.

  2. Sarah Anderson
    Sarah Anderson says:

    That is interesting that Italians don’t have breakfast. This would explain why most Italian restaurants I have seen don’t really have any sort of breakfast menu. Is this a more recent development, or have they not had this for a few hundred years?

  3. Ivy Baker
    Ivy Baker says:

    I liked that you talked about some of these food terms. I liked that you pointed out that il pesce means fish. That would be good to know when you want to eat Italian food. I love to fish and would want to eat Italian dishes that feature fish.

  4. Taylor Bishop
    Taylor Bishop says:

    Thanks for the interesting read for eating out in Italy. It’s good to know that you should never cut spaghetti and you should twirl it onto a fork. I wonder if it could be good to to develop this habit beforehand so you can do it effectively.

  5. Jason
    Jason says:

    I just started working in an Italian restaurant after spending three years at a Spanish tapas, this is certainly been an educational read. Bon appetit

  6. Sandra Patterson
    Sandra Patterson says:

    I think that it is interesting that tipping isn’t expected since the charge of service is included in the bill. My sister has been thinking about traveling to Italy since she has started learning the language. I think before she goes to Italy we will go to Italian restaurants and practice there first.

  7. Johnny McCarron
    Johnny McCarron says:

    Good to know that I shouldn’t cut my spaghetti. My wife and I were thinking of travelling to Italy for a vacation. We’re looking forward to trying out authentic Italian noodles.


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