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 go out to eat in Italy, what are the must-know phrases so you can make sure that you eat what you want, can avoid any allergy-related disasters, and pay for the bill without issues?

9 Phrases to Help You Navigate the Italian Dining Experience

1.) Avete un tavolo per due persone? - Do you have a table for two people?

When you first approach a restaurant, after you greet the host, you can tell him or her 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 have more than two people, you can switch out “due” with the number you need. Here are the numbers in Italian.

2.) Potrei vedere il menù? - May I see the menu?

If you’re out looking for somewhere to eat and you’re not sure which restaurant is best, you can always ask for the menu in advance so you can decide before you sit down at a table. Usually, however, the menu will be displayed outside for everyone to see.

3.) L’acqua frizzante/naturale. - Sparkling/natural water.

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

4.) Cosa ci consiglia? - What would you recommend for us?

After you sit down to eat, you can ask the “cameriere - male waiter” or “cameriera - female waitress” what he or she would recommend. Once a recommendation has been given, you can say “Prendo/Scelgo questo! - I’ll take/choose this!”. If you'd like other ways to ask for recommendations from the server, try using a few of these phrases

5.) 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, you can 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”.

6.) 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.

7.) Sono vegetariano/a. - I'm 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 are:

  • 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.

8.) 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?”

9.) Il conto, per favore. - The check, please.

In Italy, it’s typical that you ask for the check instead of having it dropped off in advance, like in America. This is a simple phrase to use when you’re ready to pay. If you're in a small town and you're not sure if they take credit card, you can ask, "Accettate carte di credito? - Do you accept credit cards?"