5 Travel Phrases to Experience Authentic Italian Food

Learn phrases for experiencing Italian cuisine like a local

Two travelers standing in a piazza in Italy
Chatting in an Italian piazza. Philip and Karen Smith / Getty Images

Your tickets are booked, the towns on your itinerary have been scouted, and all that’s left to do is to learn as much of the language as possible.

While you are interested in knowing how to order food and how to ask for directions when you inevitably become lost in the never-ending alleyways of Rome, you’re more interested in seeing a less touristy side of Italy. You’re ready to experience Italy and all it has to offer on a deeper level, to step away from the well-trodden cobblestones near the Colosseum and find a trattoria that only locals know about.

In order to do that, you’ll need phrases that will help you get the exact information you want to experience an authentic Italy while occasionally winning over the hearts of the locals.

Five Phrases For Eating in Italy

1. Posso assaggiare questo (vino)? - Can I sample this (wine)?

Before you commit to a bottle of wine, a doppio cono di gelato - a double scoop ice cream cone, or any other large helping, you can absolutely ask to taste it first. Do note that adding a “per favore - please” and asking as politely as possible doesn’t hurt either.

Try subbing out the word “vino (wine)” with:

  • Formaggio - Cheese
  • Salame - Salami
  • Piatto - Dish
  • Gusto di gelato - Ice cream flavor

2. Può consigliarmi dei piatti tipici della regione? - Could you recommend some traditional regional dishes?

While you could ask your server the question above to get a good recommendation, it’s actually more useful of a phrase before you enter a restaurant.

It would serve you better to ask the barista in the bar next to your B&B, the owner of the store on the corner selling prodotti tipici (traditional products), or the lovely older lady who sits on the bench in front of the bakery in the main piazza.

This way, you can make small talk with a local about something that all Italians love -- food.  

In response, you might hear something like, “Deve assolutamente provare... (le lasagne con crema di tartufo). - You absolutely have to to try the (lasagna with truffle cream)”.

3. Faccia Lei! - You choose!

You walk into an Italian restaurant, and the menu is full of items that you want on your table in that moment. When you have trouble deciding what you’d like to eat, you can always turn to your server and tell him or her this phrase.

It’s a simple way to suggest that they choose the dish for you. You can always follow this phrase up with a hearty “per favore - please” to be extra polite.

4. Mi affido a lei! - I trust you!

Once they suggest a dish after you say “Faccia lei”, they might say “va bene? - okay?” for confirmation. If they do, you can reply with a caring “Mi affido a lei. - I trust you”.

This will surely make your server smile and show that you’re there for the full experience.

5. Mamma mia, questa (schiacciata) è puro piacere!!! - My goodness, this (schiacciata) is pure pleasure!!!

When you finally dig into the dish that your server chose for you or the one that was recommended by someone you met, the server may ask you how it is with a simple “Tutto a posto? - Is everything okay?”.

When that happens, you can respond by telling him or her how delicious the dish is. While a sincere “È delizioso - It’s delicious” may suffice, a more authentic expression would be to say “Mamma mia, questo (piatto) è puro piacere”.

Grammar tip: If the food or item you’re talking about is masculine, like “il piatto - the dish”, the word before “questa” must be changed to masculine, which would like “questo piatto”.

Finally, a polite way to say the dish wasn’t good is, “Non è di mio gusto - It’s not my taste”.