For your convenience, this section has been designed as a QUICK-REFERENCE-GUIDE on ITALY and the ITALIAN CULTURE, offering information for the traveler, the student, the researcher and anyone captivated by the Italian dolce vita.
A Roman term for baby lamb, usually slaughtered between 30 and 60 days. It is cooked on a spit or roasted, usually flavored with rosemary, and is a specialty of Easter dinner.
A slightly sweet wine. The wines of Orvieto most often take this description.
A dish from Molise of baked involtini of lamb intestines filled with sweetbreads, hard-boiled eggs and liver.
Any dish prepared "in the style of Abruzzo," the region that extends from the east of Latium to the coast of the Adriatic sea. Such dishes usually containing hot chili peppers called diavolicchio, which are characteristic of the region.
A lavish dish of Sardinia in which a whole sheep is stuffed with a suckling pig and roasted over a pit of hot stones.
Cow's milk cheese from Piedmont. It is a summer cheese and slightly tangy.
Anchovy, served both fresh, often in vinegar, and cured in salt or olive oil. They are widely canned, and sometimes made into a paste used to flavor other foods.
To truss meat or poultry for roasting on a spit or grilling.
Vinegar, almost always made from wine, the best of which is the syrupy aceto balsamico tradizionale (traditional balsamic vinegar), once made only in Modena (Emilia-Romagna), now made elsewhere in varying degrees of quality. Otherwise a simple red wine vinegar is used to dress salads and marinate fish.
General term for water. Italians rarely drink water from the tap, preferring instead bottled mineral water — acqua minerale — whose sources are legally guarded and whose mineral content must be listed on the label.
Orange blossom water, used mostly in pastries and desserts.
Bottled mineral water, either sparkling (gassata) or flat (naturale). A favorite among Italians since the mineral contents, regulated by law, are believed to have therapeutic value.
Crazy water. Any dish cooked in seawater, commonly done in the south.
Cooked water. A Tuscan vegetable soup, poured over a slice of bread.
Sliced, as with meats or cheese coldcuts, often served as an antipasto.
Smoked, referring to meat or fish, especially salmon.
Crisp Tuscan cookies with a dark brown exterior.
Foods said to possess an aphrodisiac quality, like caviar, truffles, and oysters — usually very expensive foods served on romantic occasions.
Sicilian dish of braised beef.
Any dish or condiment made with crushed garlic, bread and vinegar.
Garlic, which is widely used in a great array of Italian dishes, though more so the farther south one goes. The export of the love of garlic by the Roman Empire led to the expression, "Where there is Rome, there is garlic."
Garlic and Oil, referring to any dish whose sauce is made principally from those ingredients. The best known dish is spaghetti all'aglio e olio, made with garlic, olive oil, and sometimes hot pepper flakes (peperoncino).
Lamb, of which all the cuts are used, including as stews, roasts, and grilled chops. Lamb is traditionally served during the Easter holidays, and it is preferred when young, usually several weeks rather than several months old. Milk-fed lamb is called abbacchio in Rome and environs.
Meat-filled ravioli, a specialty of Piedmont, usually stuffed with cheese and other ingredients.
Fresh water shad, the best of which come from Lake Como (Lombardy). It can be cooked or marinated, and it is often pickled and placed in a barrel.
Unfermented juice of wine grapes, used as a condiment.
Grassy spring vegetable of northern Italy.
Tourist farm. A farm or vinyard that offers lodging accomodations to travelers.
A lemon juice dressing, used on many foods, especially salads and grilled fish.
Sour-sweet. Any dish or condiment based on sugar and vinegar, often used as a marinade.
General term for citrus fruits like oranges and lemons.
Needlefish, usually grilled or stewed.
Any food cooked over an open fire.
To the tooth, referring to the tender but firm texture of cooked pasta. This "just-right" texture maintains the most flavor within the pasta itself, which Italians consider as important as any sauce added.
Any food baked in an oven.
Outdoors, referring to a meal taken outdoors.
Sardine-like fish of the Mediterranean, usually grilled or marinated.
Albacore tuna, which is cooked in the same way as tuna (tonno), often canned either in olive oil or water. Mostly found in Sicilian waters.
Ring-shaped cookies made with wine and olive oil.
Piedmontese cookies made with chocolate hazelnuts and Barolo wine.
Apricot, not widely cultivated in Italy.
A small whitefish of the northern Italian lakes, usually grilled.
A red-colored liqueur made from flowers and spices, traditionally used to make zuppa inglese.
General term for alcohol, potable and otherwise. It is usually stated by % of volume.
Small pasta shaped like alphabet letters.
A general term referring to food, i.e. negozio alimentare, grocery store.
Lark, a game bird, not common at the table, but when served, it is usually grilled and, because of its small size, eaten with the fingers.
Laurel leaf, used as a seasoning herb.
Shad. See cheppia.
Teal, a wild duck, usually roasted.
Semisweet, usually in reference to a wine, most often one that is sparkling.
Sour cherry, usually steeped in alcohol or syrup, used mostly in desserts.
Almond macaroons. At Christmas time they are traditionally grated and combined with cheese as a stuffing for ravioli.
Any food or drink that is almond flavored.
Bitter taste, also bitter liqueur, usually based on herbs.
Amatrice style. Pasta sauce made with guanciale, peperoncino, onion, and tomato, common to the town of Amatrice on the Lazio-Abruzzo border. Usually served with bucatini pasta.
Sicilian mixed topping of herbs, garlic and olive oil for fish.
Cornmeal cake typical of Varese, usually made with maraschino liqueur.
Tiny pasta specks cooked in broth.
Pineapple, also ananas, a New World fruit, usually served fresh as a dessert in Italy. It is rarely used in Italian cookery.
Sicilian ravioli stuffed with meat and fried.
Dill, not a popular herb in Italy.
Eel, which is prepared in a wide variety of ways. The large capitone is particularly popular for Christmas Eve dinner, and the eels of the Po River are considered among the finest.
Watermelon, eaten as a dessert fruit, sorbetto or as a gelatin.
Anise, used as a cookery herb and also in a range of liqueurs such as digestives like sambuca.
Sweetbreads, from the thymus glands of a calf, usually sautéed or grilled, often chopped up and used in pastas as a filling.
Duck, also anatra. The wild variety, masaro, is preferred for its flavor, but domestic ducks are raised as a market variety. Ducks are stewed, roasted, or braised, the breasts often grilled or sautéed.
Wine vintage year.
Small ravioli, commonly served in broth.
An appetizer or pre-meal course. Antipasti cover a miscellany of raw, cooked or pickled vegetable, meat and fish dishes, salads, cheeses, canapés, fritters and tarts.
Aperitif, which in Italy may be a simple glass of wine, a cordial or bitter amaro, or an American-style cocktail, such as a Martini, Negroni, Bellini or Americano, served before the meal.
Apple fritters typical of the Trentino-Alto Adige region.
A kitchen appliance such as a blender or coffee grinder.
To sauté vegetables.
A flat plate or the preparation of a meat by flattening it with a kitchen mallet.
Bottle opener (not a corkscrew).
Peanut, eaten principally as a snack.
Spiny or rock lobster, not as large as the American lobster, usually eaten boiled or grilled, often cold with a lemon or mayonnaise dressing.
Orange, one of the most common fruits in Italy and widely consumed. The blood orange is called arancia rossa or sanguinello. Oranges are usually eaten fresh, but they may be cooked in syrup or their rinds may be dried as a flavoring for other dishes. Aranciata, orange-based soft drink.
Little orange, referring to a rice ball stuffed with vegetables, meats or cheese, rolled in breadcrumbs and fried. They are a snack or antipasto, sometimes served with a tomato sauce. In some parts of Italy these are called suppli al telefono.
Sardinian raisin gingerbread.
Noah's Ark. A mollusk, usually eaten raw.
Herring, usually imported or smoked in Italy.
Boneless pork roast, traditionally roasted on a spit with rosemary, thyme, and garlic.
General term for herbs like rosemary, thyme, basil, and bay leaves.
Angry style. A pasta sauce made with peperoncino, tomato, and guanciale or pancetta. It is a specialty of Abruzzo and Molise.
Roast, normally meat cooked in an oven or on a spit or grill.
Small wedge shell clam, usually consumed on the half shell, raw.
Wine-flavored egg custard, from Piedmont.
Sharp cow's milk cheese of the Veneto, named after the area of Asiago in which it is made. Many varieties of Asiago are produced, from fresh and soft to firm and aged.
Donkey, rarely cooked today, but if so, stewed.
Asparagus. Often served boiled and cold with mayonnaise, or served cut up in pasta or risotto.
A tasting or a morsel of food.
Lobster, also astice or aragosta (spiny Mediterranean rock lobster), usually grilled or sautéed, mosty found off the coast of Sardinia.
Coiled cake typical of Umbria, made with almonds and lemon.
Hail Marys, short tube-shaped maccheroni.
A farm or estate which produces all or most of the grapes for wine sold under its labels.