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Decoding the Italian cuisine for you

While most foodies don’t mistake their fusilli with fettuccine, the ones who are new to the cuisine may find Italian terms confusing. Here's simplifying the cuisine for you. So go, feast yourself.

india Updated: Sep 16, 2011 00:37 IST
Sonal Sher
Sonal Sher
Hindustan Times

In the movie, Eat, Pray, Love, Julia Roberts may have had help to get her ‘rrrrs’ right while placing her order in the authentic Italian restaurants, but not everyone is as lucky. While most foodies don’t mistake their fusilli with fettuccine, the ones who are new to the cuisine may find Italian terms confusing. A simple example would be the dish Maccheroni al Formaggio, which sounds super fancy on the menu, but translates into the very simple macroni and cheese.

Chef Shamsul Wahid from Smokehouse grill says that the names of the Italian dishes are mostly a combination of the terminologies of the ingredients used in the dish. “For instance, lamb is called Abbacchio in Italian, pork is Maiale and beef is Manzo and so on,” says Wahid.

“Most of the restaurants now carry an explanation of the dish along with the authentic Italian name so that people are aware of what they are eating,” he informs.

Here’s decoding some difficult sounding popular Italian dishes and their constituents:


Carpaccio is one of the well known dishes, which is served as an appetiser. But unlike most antipasto, this one does not really see much cooking. Carpaccio is just a thinly sliced raw meat or fish.

"Since raw meat is not that well accepted by the people here, there are variations of it like Watermelon Carpaccio and Orange Carpaccio," says Chef Thomas Figovc, from The Leela Kempinski.

Pesto is another well-known term, but many actually don’t know what it means. “Pesto genovese is an ancient recipe which is a mix of basil, parmesan cheese and pine nuts,” says Wahid. It is usually used with pasta. Another popular dish is Piccata, which means to be pounded flat! “The dish is flattened meat spread with egg and parmesan,” says Wahid.

And finally how can one finish a meal without dessert! The famous Panna Cotta may rhyme with terracotta but the Italian desert has nothing to do with clay. It means cooked cream and is made by simmering together cream with vanilla and mixing this with gelatin to let it set.

Know your way to a tasty italian full course meal

Add on know-hows while ordering Italian food:

Antipasto means ‘before the meal’ and includes hot or cold appetisers.

Primo is the first course and consists of a hot dish like pasta, risotto, gnocchi, or soup.

Secondo is the second course and consists of the main dish, usually fish or meat.

Contorno is the side dish, and may be a salad or cooked vegetable.

Formaggio e frutta is cheese and fruits.

Dolce is sweet, and includes cakes and cookies.

Caffè is coffee.

First Published: Sep 15, 2011 18:00 IST