How to say and ask for the right thing in Italy
At the bar
un caffé – will get you an espresso coffee, small and very strong. Add lots of sugar (zucchero)
un caffè macchiato – indicates an espresso coffee with a dash of warm frothy milk, like a mini cappuccino. If you prefer you can ask for cold milk (latte freddo)
un cappuccino – the universal frothy coffee, always made with full cream milk and usually luke warm. Ask for it caldo (hot).
un aperitivo – a ritual pre-lunch or pre-dinner drink. You can have it either alcolico or non-alcolico and leave the rest up to the barman. Good bars serve a variety of snacks to go with it.
At the gelateria
Buying icecream - gelato - involves a lot of decision making. First decide how big you want your icecream – or how many flavours (due (2) gusti, tre (3) gusti, quattro (4) gusti) you would like; then tell the assistant whether you would like to eat it from un cono (a cone) or una coppa (a cup). The next and most important step is choosing your flavours from the dozens lined up in front of you. Pay*, and enjoy!
(*a good tip is to pay at the till before you are actually handed your icecream – it’s hard to count money, put back change etc with an icecream cone in one hand!)
At the market
Of course, where shopping is involved, you need to be able to ask for prices, so quanto costa? (‘how much is it?) is an essential linguistic tool. If you are buying food, you will probably be asking for due etti (200g), mezzo chilo (half a kilo), or even un chilo (one kilo) of your chosen produce.
The choice is endless, but on the fruit and veg stalls you will find, according to the season, pomodori (tomatoes), carciofi (artichokes), fagiolini (green beans), pesche (peaches), albicocche (apricots), popone (melon), cocomero (water melon), uva (grapes) and much more. Then there is your prosciutto crudo (Parma ham), prosciutto cotto (cooked ham), Parmigiano (Parmesan cheese), or simply formaggio (cheese). Meat in general is carne, chicken is pollo, and fish is pesce.
At the restaurant
Reading restaurant menus in a foreign language can be tricky, especially when dishes are given elaborate names. However, these days many people are quite familiar with Italian dishes and can usually cope with the pasta and pizza section. Here are a few main dishes typical to Livorno that are probably not so well known:
Cacciucco – Livorno’s famous fish stew with a tomato base.
Triglie alla Livornese – red mullet in a tomato sauce
Baccalà – salt cod
Trippa alla Livornese – tripe
Bordatino – a soup made from red beans and leftover meat
Torta di Ceci – a kind of pancake made from chick pea flour, usually served in focaccia bread.
Ponce – the famous Livorno punch made from coffee and rum.