When it comes to food, Italians know best. And it comes as no surprise that food means much more to Italian culture than tinkering in the kitchen or sitting around the dinner table. The country’s cuisine has seeped its way into the italian language, too.

Since a lot of the Spotahome team members hail from Italy (or have lived there long enough to master a few essential sayings), we’ve put together this list of what we think are the 10 best Italian food-related expressions that could really only come from Italy (with literal translations)…

1. fare polpette di qualcuno (to make meatballs of someone)

We all know how meatballs are made – you ground your meat first. Hence, the English equivalent of this expression is to make mincemeat/hamburger of someone, treating them roughly as if chopping them up, but what’s more Italian than the meatballs you can find in your spaghetti?

2. tutto finisce a tarallucci e vino* (it all ends with biscuits and wine)*

It basically means not to worry, everything’s going to be just fine; except that in Italy, it comes with some biscuits and wine ? (and they even rhyme!)


**3. avere il prosciutto sugli occhi **(to have ham over your eyes)

If your eyes are covered by ham, then surely you can’t see anything… or you can pretend. It’s so much more pictoresque (and much funnier) than simply burying your head in the sand like an ostrich, don’t you think?


4. fare una spaghettata (to eat spaghetti)

Let’s meet up to eat anything (despite the expression, you do not necessarily have to have the quintessential Italian spaghetti) and socialize.


5. sono pieno come un uovo (I’m full as an egg)

I’m stuffed, à la Humpty Dumpty!


6. conosco i miei polli (I know my chicken)

Chicken is arguably the most common ingredient found in any dishes, Italian or otherwise. Knowing your chicken (the basics), then, means you know what you’re talking about!


7. non puoi avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca (you can’t have a full wine barrel and a drunk wife)

This quaint little idiom means you can’t have the best of both worlds! Someone has got to remain sober in the house, right?

wine barrels

8. sei come il prezzemolo (you’re like parsley)

Parsley is an omnipresent element found in many Italian dishes, so if you’re like parsley, then it means you pop up everywhere or are always in the way.


9. due dita di vino e una pedata al medico (two drops of wine and we can kick the doctor out the door)

We all know how Italians adore their wines (we do, too!). While in English, a somewhat old-fashioned proverb endorses apples – “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” the wiser Italians substitute that boring apple with a little bit of wine, preferably labeled DOC (in case you’re not familiar with Italian wine labeling, this stands for denominazione di origine controllata, or guarantee of origin), of course!

doctor & wine

10. mangiare per vivere e non vivere per mangiare (eat to live, don’t live to eat)

Another case in point of Italian wisdom. While we English-speaking folks tend to say something along the lines of “work to live, don’t live to work” – showing our work-centric approach to life, Italians have, again, a better outlook on life evident in this idiom.


Buon appetito!

So, if you’re moving to Italy, then start using these italian expressions and sounding like a native in no time.

Did we miss any?

Let us know about any other of the best Italian food-related expressions and we’ll add them to the list!

What about Spanish food-related expressions?

Well, since the other half of Spotahome is from Spain, of course we were thinking of doing another post on the top Spanish food-related expressions. But our friends at Naked Madrid and Madrid Food Tour already beat us to it! Check out their posts below ?

Ostras! Spanish Food Phrases for Aspiring Natives

5 Spanish Food Idioms and How to Use Them

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