How to Read an Italian Menu

How to Read an Italian Menu

Why do people visit Italy? History. Art. Food! It can be a little intimidating at first glance, especially for those of us who don’t speak much Italian however once you understand a little about Italian customs, reading an Italian menu becomes a piece of cake…

Eating in Italy

Eating is a huge part of the Mediterranean lifestyle, you have probably read about the health benefits of Mediterranean cuisine or something similar. As a country in the heart of the Mediterranean, Italy benefits from many gastronomic influences. Food is a huge part of the culture here and each region in Italy boasts different styles and dishes.

It is true that we can be a little uncompromising when it comes to food. For example there are certain do’s and don’ts to be aware of when it comes to eating in Italy. You’d have to spend some time with Italians or visit Italy often to pick up on these rules.

Meals are a social occasion to be enjoyed with friends and family. It is not uncommon for Italians to spend upwards of 2 hours at the table, eating, drinking and laughing, even at lunch.

Reading Italian Menus

Generally, but not always, the good restaurants won’t have an english menu. So, let’s go over the most important sections of an Italian menu.


The starter, the antipasti consists of appetisers that usually come on platters to be shared. Although the type of restaurant and the region you are in will influence the antipasti, it usually consists of cheeses, cold meats, breads and other small bites.


The first course is usually the first hot dish of the meal. You can expect to find pasta, risottos and soup options in the ‘primi’ section. We recommend ordering a few different options to share around the table. No need to get a plate each.


Either meat or fish, depending on where you are, the ‘secondi’ is considered to be the main dish so make sure you still have an appetite (don’t eat to much pasta!).


The desserts. Italian classics such as Tiramisu, Panna Cotta, Sorbeti, Tartufu, Crema Catalana etc are on offer here.


These are the side dishes, this is where you will find salads (insalata) and french fries (patata fritte).

Finish your meal with a coffee, or a digestivo, if you’re not driving!

If you are interested in Italian cuisine and would like to combine your trip to Italy with learning more about Italian food, why not try one of Venice Events’ Food & Wine themed tours.

We offer a range of tours that showcase the food and wine from different Italian regions; the Medieval Hill Towns of the Veneto & Prosecco Wine Tasting tour is particularly popular as are the wine tours that take place around Verona & Amarone.

If you have any questions about our tours, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our English speaking team.