How to Order at an Italian Restaurant Without Sounding Dumb (Or Pretentious)

A few dishes are frequently, well, butchered by well-meaning diners

How to Order at an Italian Restaurant Without Sounding Dumb (Or Pretentious)
Wikimedia Commons/Luigi Anzivino

Italian restaurants are date staples: They're widely available, often inexpensive, usually have a romantic atmosphere, and the food is consistently delicious. But sometimes the thought of ordering (or pronouncing) words from an Italian menu can be intimidating, and no one wants to sound fumbling or silly in front of a date (and risk ruining your chances for a second one).

Click here for the How to Order at an Italian Restaurant Without Sounding Dumb (Or Pretentious) Slideshow.

Because Italian food is such a big part of American culture, by now most dishes have perfectly acceptable English pronunciations — but there are a few dishes that are frequently, well, butchered by well-meaning diners.

While you definitely don't have to sound like Super Mario when you order your food (Is there anything more annoying than the one person who makes a big deal out of rolling his or her "R's" when ordering spaghetti carbonara?), here are some basic pronunciation guidelines to help you feel reasonably confident.

— Chiara Atik, How About We

 

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4 Comments

ItalianStrongman's picture

Thanks folks. Yes the E is said at the end of Minestrone. Us southern italians use a lot of slang terms. In our house, we spoke dialect that varies widely. Italian food is great food that varies widely from region to region. My dad was Abbruzzese, Mom is Potenzese. My grandmothers cooked different & thus we knew who cooked if either mom or dad cooked

tdm-35-icon.png

There is so much wrong in this piece, but to simplify a few things: The "c" is an "American ch" only in front of i and e. However, in front of a, o, and u, the Italian "c" is like the American "k". The same follows with the Italian "g" - it is like a soft American "g" (gem) in front of i and e, but hard (go) in front of a, o, and u. And counting syllables is a little silly, if you don't know how: "Giovanni", for example, has three syllables, not the four you often hear from Americans. It's "joe-vah-nee", not "gee-oh-vah-nee". I could probably go on and on, but years of teaching Italian diction for singers sent me a little over the edge with the wrongness of so much of this article. Thanks for telling people about bruschetta!

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I appreciate the sentimate this article tries to convey, however there are some issues.

I speak Italian fluently (learned it from my parents, who coincidentally own a restaurant) and have never heard it pronounced Mean-ehs-tron-ih. If it were properly pronounced in Italian, it would be mee-neh-stroh-neh. I've never heard of a "soft I." It just doesn't exist in the Italian language in this manner.

And the C pronunciation is not accurate, either. It is dependent upon the proceeding vowel. For example you would not use the same pronunciation for the two c's in carpaccio.

The author--though well intentioned--is probably not ordering properly either.

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This article, while trying very hard, is full of FAIL. the "e" in minestrone is ALWAYS "eh". The "e" is always pronounced at the end of Italian words and it drives me crazy that in English it's pronounced as "i" or "ee". It's EH!
The author of the article also fails at "c" pronounciation guide.
In Italian, "c" is pronounced like the English "ch" when there is "i" or "e" after it.
If there is an "o" or "u" or "a" it's a hard "k" sound.
"ch" is pronounced as k. (i.e. chianti)

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