Italian Survival Phrases: Dining Out

Learn essential phrases for dining out in Italian

Dining in a restaurant in Trastevere in Rome
Dining in a restaurant in Trastevere in Rome.

 Lonely Planet / Getty Images

When you dine out in Italy, you should master certain phrases so you can ensure that you eat what you want, avoid any allergy-related disasters, and pay for the bill without issues. These nine examples are must-know phrases for dining out in Italy. Where indicated, click on the link in the heading to bring up a sound file that will allow you to hear—and practice—the correct pronunciation.

"Avete un tavolo per due persone?"—Do you have a table for two people?

When you enter a restaurant, after you greet the host, you can tell him how many people are in your party using the above phrase. You may be asked if you want to dine all’aperto (outside) or all’interno (indoors). If you are dinging with more than two people, swap out due (two) with the number you need.

"Potrei vedere il menù?"—May I see the menu?

If you are looking for somewhere to eat and you’re unsure which restaurant is best, you can always ask for the menu in advance so that you can decide before you sit at a table. Usually, however, the menu will be displayed outside for everyone to see.

"L’acqua frizzante/naturale."—Sparkling/natural water.

At the start of each meal, the server will ask you if you prefer sparkling or natural water. You can answer with l’acqua frizzante (sparkling water) or l’acqua naturale (natural water).

"Cosa ci consiglia?"—What would you recommend for us?

After you sit down to eat, you can ask the cameriere (male waiter) or cameriera (waitress) what he or she would recommend. Once your waiter has made a recommendation, you can say “Prendo/Scelgo questo!" (I’ll take/choose this!).

"Un litro di vino della casa, per favore."—A liter of house wine, please.

Ordering wine is such an important part of the Italian dining experience that it counts as a survival phrase. While you can order a fancy bottle of wine, usually the house wine—both white and red—are quite good, so you can stick to those by using the above phrase.

If you want red wine, say, "Un litro di vino rosso della casa, per favore." If you’re looking for white, you would replace rosso (red) with bianco (white). You can also order un mezzo litro (a half liter), una bottiglia (a bottle), or un bicchiere (a glass).

"Vorrei…(le lasagne)."—I would like…(the lasagna).

After the waiter asks you, “Cosa prendete?" (What will you all have?), you can answer with “Vorrei…" (I would like) followed by the name of the dish.

"Sono vegetariano/a."—I'm a vegetarian.

If you have dietary restrictions or preferences, you can tell the server that you’re a vegetarian. Use the phrase ending in “o” if you’re a male and use the phrase ending in “a” if you’re a female.

Other Phrases for Restrictions

Some other phrases you can use if you have dietery restrictions include:

  • Sono celiaco/a. > I have celiac disease.
  • Non posso mangiare i piatti che contengono (il glutine). > I can’t eat dishes that contain (gluten).
  • Potrei sapere se questa pietanza contiene lattosio? > May I know if this course contains lactose?
  • Senza (i gamberetti), per favore. > Without (shrimp), please.

"Potrei avere un altro coltello/cucchiaio?"—Could I have another knife/spoon?

This is a great phrase to use if you happen to drop a utensil and need a replacement. If you want to ask for something that you don’t have, you can say "Mi può portare una forchetta, per favore?" (Can you bring me a fork, please?)

"Il conto, per favore."—The check, please.

In Italy, you typically have to ask for the check; the waiter does not simply drop off the check in advance as in most American restaurants. Use the above phrase when you’re ready to pay. If you're in a small town and you're not sure if the restaurant will take a credit card, you can ask "Accettate carte di credito?" (Do you accept credit cards?)