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Il gusto — the sense of taste

This lesson will explore some of the vocabulary we use to talk about the sense of taste. We use nouns, verbs and adjectives, so once again, we'll divide the lesson up into these three different parts of speech.

Nouns

When we talk about the noun "taste," one noun we use in Italian is il gusto (the taste). It can be used literally to talk about food. In the following example, we are talking about the particular taste of good olive oil:

perché avendo un pane più saporito si perderebbe il gusto dell'olio.

because having a more flavorful bread, you'd lose the taste of the oil.

Caption 13, L'olio extravergine di oliva Spremuto o franto?

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We can also use the noun il gusto as we do in English, to talk about someone's good or bad taste in music, clothing, furniture, etc. In this next example, it's all about a tie someone wears to a wedding.

Eh, va be'. -Vedi, è questione di buon gusto, no?

Well, OK. -See? It's a question of good taste, right?

Caption 12, Il Commissario Manara S2EP1 - Matrimonio con delitto - Part 1

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So with the noun form, il gusto functions much as "the taste" does in English.

 

Another noun we use to talk about how something tastes is il sapore (the taste). But in contrast to il gusto, il sapore is mostly about how something tastes.

L'olio esalta anche il sapore delle pietanze.

Oil also brings out the taste of dishes.

Caption 17, L'olio extravergine di oliva Spremuto o franto?

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Il sapore can be used metaphorically as well, as in sapore di mare (the feeling of the seaside), but it is about the item we are tasting.

It tastes good (ha un buon sapore) or it tastes bad (ha un cattivo sapore)

 

But il buon gusto/il cattivo gusto can also be about the person who has good or bad taste in things.

Ha buon gusto-ha cattivo gusto (he/she has good taste-he/she has bad taste).

Verbs

When we are talking about tasting something, for example, to see if the water has been salted properly for cooking the pasta, the noun we go to is assaggiare (to taste). This is a transitive verb.

 

Non vedo l'ora di assaggiare la pappa al pomodoro!

I can't wait to taste the tomato and bread soup!

Caption 69, L'Italia a tavola La pappa al pomodoro - Part 1

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Toscani ha assaggiato il vino e ha detto che era aceto.

Toscani tasted the wine and said it tasted like vinegar.

Caption 25, Il Commissario Manara S1EP2 - Vendemmia tardiva - Part 15

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Let's keep in mind that there is a noun form connected to assaggiare — un assaggio  — that is useful to know. It implies a mini-portion of something and is sometimes offered on menus in restaurants. 

 

One way restaurants offer these assaggi is by calling them by the number of mini-portions included: un tris (three mini-portions) or un bis (two mini-portions). See this lesson about that! Tris di Assaggi (Three Tidbits).

 

The verb assaggiare implies tasting something to see how it is. Maybe you are testing it for the salt, or you are trying something for the first time.

 

The verb gustare on the other hand is connected with savoring something, enjoying the taste, or making the most of it.

 

Per gustare bene un tartufo bisogna partire dal presupposto che i piatti devono essere molto semplici

To properly taste a truffle you have to start with the assumption that the dishes have to be very simple

Captions 51-52, Tartufo bianco d'Alba Come sceglierlo e come gustarlo

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This might be a good time to mention the noun il disgusto along with the verb disgustare. You can easily guess what they mean. And there's also disgustoso. These are strong words so use them only when you really mean them.

Adjectives

Whereas we use the verb assaggiare and the noun assaggio, there is no relative adjective. But in the case of il gusto and gustare, we do have a relative adjective, gustoso (tasty, flavorful).

Più gli ingredienti sono di qualità, più il panzerotto risulterà gustoso.

The higher the quality of the ingredients, the more flavorful the “panzerotto” will turn out.

Caption 5, L'Italia a tavola Panzerotti Pugliesi - Part 2

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The adjective connected to il sapore is saporito. It can mean "very tasty," but it often implies something is on the salty side, as in the following example.

Ma poi il pecorino è molto saporito, quindi dobbiamo stare attente con il sale. -Esatto.

And then, sheep cheese is very flavorful so we have to be careful with the salt. -Exactly.

Captions 20-21, L'Italia a tavola Culurgiones D'Ogliastra - Part 2

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To give more flavor to something, we can use the verb insaporire (to make something more flavorful).

Userò l'aglio, sia per, eh, insaporire, quindi l'olio,

I'll use the garlic, both for flavoring, that is, the oil,

Caption 37, L'Italia a tavola Culurgiones D'Ogliastra - Part 1

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One last thing. Sapere is a verb meaning to have the taste (or smell) of (in addition to meaning "to know"). This would be a perfect time to read our lesson about that!

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Vocabulary

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