Every country has its own slant on the subject of when and what to eat when you want to eat something sweet.
Lots of Italians like to have breakfast at a bar because the coffee is made expressly at the moment and is often excellent. In addition, there is the option of a cappuccino or a caffè macchiato. These names are visual: Cappuccio means "hood." There is a little hood of foamed milk on the coffee in a cappuccino. Un caffè macchiato is coffee spotted with milk, because macchiare mean "to spot" or to "stain."
But another important feature of breakfast at the bar is that early in the morning, freshly baked pastries are delivered there. The breakfast kind are usually cornetti — similar to croissants, but sweeter than the French kind — that can be vuoti (empty), alla crema, (filled with custard cream), al miele (honey-filled) alla marmelata (jam-filled), ai frutti di bosco (berry-filled), and more.
There is also usually a selection of more dessert-appropriate pastries. These can be dolci alla frutta, alla crema (custard), alla panna (cream), etc. Think "cream puffs."
Many Italians like something sweet for breakfast, but others go for something savory like focaccia or some kind of sandwich.
Someone might ask you (to find out your preference at the moment): Dolce o salato? Dolce is an adjective meaning "sweet," "mild," and other things, but in terms of food, it means "sweet." Salato literally means "salted" or "salty," but in this case basically means, "not sweet," but rather along "savory" lines.
Dolce is also a noun meaning something to eat that is sweet. So when Italians talk about un dolce, or i dolci, they mean something sweet, that you might eat for dessert or with tea. It's very generic. It can be a torta (cake), crostata (pie or tart), una crema (pudding), un semifreddo (similar to an ice-cream cake, or frozen custard, but not really frozen, just cold).
Il dolce di Natale per eccellenza che oggi ho voluto reinterpretare, è il Monte Bianco.
The Christmas dessert par excellence I wanted to re-interpret today is White Mountain [Mont Blanc].
Captions 2-3, Ricette di Natale Il Monte BiancoPlay Caption
Getting more specific, we have:
Torta di compleanno. Con amarene sciroppate.
Birthday cake. With sour cherries in syrup.
Captions 76-77, Gatto Mirò EP6 Buon compleannoPlay Caption
Due porzioni di crostata di fichi, il Cavaliere alle mandorle.
Two servings of the "Cavaliere" fig tart with almonds.
Caption 30, La Ladra EP. 1 - Le cose cambiano - Part 10Play Caption
Un dolce is something sweet, commonly eaten for dessert, but not necessarily, but il dolce (with a definite article) usually refers to dessert.
Ho fatto un dolce (I made something for dessert).
È arrivato il dolce (dessert is served).
There are lots of wonderful Italian sweet treats, but you're better off tasting them to see what you like rather than trying to find an equivalent in English!
In a recent series of videos, Arianna makes panzanella, a Tuscan bread salad. Rather than giving you a list of ingredients and their precise quantities, she improvised, especially because it's a very simple recipe, and quantities aren't of utmost importance. Still, some viewers might want more detailed quantities and a more codified list of ingredients, so here, we are providing a recipe in Italian, with quantities. It will be good practice for trying out other recipes that are in Italian. It can be a lot of fun, and is truly a great way to get acquainted, in a different way, with the Italian language, not to mention with the food you will be preparing.
Su questo tavolo potete vedere tanti e coloratissimi ingredienti
On this table, you can see lots of very colorful ingredients
e voi vi chiederete "per fare cosa?"
and you must be asking yourself, "to do what?"
Per, ehm, preparare una buonissima ricetta della tradizione toscana.
To, uh, make a really good recipe from the Tuscan tradition.
Captions 2-4, In cucina con Arianna - la panzanellaPlay Caption
Ingredienti per 4 persone:
• 500 g di pane toscano raffermo (1 lb dried Tuscan bread)
• 2 pomodori grandi maturi (2 ripe tomatoes)
• 1 cetriolo (1 cucumber, peeled)
• 1 cipolla rossa (1 red onion)
• qualche foglia di basilico per profumare (some fresh basil leaves for flavor)
• sale qb (salt to taste)
• olio extravergine di oliva qb (good olive oil to taste)
• aceto di vino bianco qb (wine vinegar to taste- not too much, not too little)
Mettere il pane in ammollo per circa mezz’ora; deve risultare bagnato anche all’interno ma non troppo molle (soak the bread in water — and the juice from the tomatoes if they are juicy — The bread should be soft, but not pasty).
Strizzare e sbriciolare grossolanamente il pane in una ciotola capiente (wring it out with your hands and crumble it in a large bowl).
Aggiungere tutte le verdure precedentemente tagliate (Add all the vegetables, which have been previously chopped into small chunks or cubes).
Condire con sale, olio e aceto (season with salt, olive oil and vinegar).
Mescolare bene e aggiungere, in ultimo, il basilico per profumare (mix well and add the basil at the end).
Many people prepare the panzanella in advance so that the flavors can blend, and they find it tastes even better cooled off in the fridge for about a half an hour.
It's best to wait until you have good, seasonal vegetables and fresh basil to make this dish. Perfect for hot summer evenings or noontime meals. It can also be served as an appetizer.
Wondering what qb means? It stands for quanto basta (as much as you need).
This week, Marika talks about adverbs. But she also talks about adjectives used as adverbs in idiomatic expressions. If we think about it, this happens in English, too, as we shall see.
One adjective she uses is sodo. It is very similar to solido, and indeed, they are pretty equivalent and have the same Latin origin: “solidus.”
Solido is a true cognate, and means “solid.”
Il composto è stato a riposare in frigo. Adesso è più solido
The dough has been resting in the fridge. Now it's stiffer
e così possiamo preparare le palline.
and that way we can prepare the little balls.
Captions 33-34, Dolcetti vegan - al cocco e cioccolatoPlay Caption
Sodo is just a bit different, and used primarily in different contexts. One of the most common uses for sodo is when talking about how long an egg is cooked. If it’s hard-boiled, it’s sodo. We can well visualize the shell coming off the egg, and its being solid enough to hold in your hand: sodo.
While we’re on the subject of eggs, here are some different ways of cooking eggs in Italian: Let’s remember that the noun uovo has an irregular plural. Un uovo (an egg), due uova (two eggs), delle uova (some eggs).
uova strapazzate (literally, “over-worked eggs,” scrambled eggs)
uovo affogato (literally, “drowned egg”) or in camicia (literally, “in its jacket,” poached egg)
uovo alla coque (literally, “egg in its shell," soft-boiled egg, often eaten in its shell in an egg cup)
uovo sodo (hard-boiled egg)
uovo al tegame, uovo al tegamino (fried egg)
all'occhio di bue (literally, “like an ox’s eye,” sunny-side up)
We also use sodo when referring to working hard. This is similar to English, where we have the adjective “hard” functioning like an adverb, modifying, or describing the verb lavorare (to work).
"Bisogna lavorare sodo per ottenere dei buoni risultati".
"You have to work hard to obtain good results."
Caption 31, Marika spiega - Gli avverbi di modoPlay Caption
Sodo can also be used a bit like nocciolo (the kernel, the point, the heart of the matter). In this case, the adjective sodo is used as a noun, to mean something like “the serious stuff.” See this lesson about nocciolo.
Arriviamo al sodo (let’s get down to brass tacks, let’s get to the point).
Va subito al sodo. Non gira intorno (he gets right to the point. He doesn’t beat around the bush).
An important staple of the Italian diet is il fagiolo (the bean). There's a vast variety of beans in many shapes, colors, and sizes, with local names, but the principal ones are borlotti (pinto beans) and cannellini (small white beans). Other popular legumi (legumes) include ceci (garbanzo beans or chickpeas), lenticchie (lentils, of which there are many varieties), and fave (fava beans).
When in season (late spring), cannellini and borlotti are sold fresh in their pods, da sgranare (to shuck), but in addition to being canned, they're found on the shelves of supermarkets and alimentari (small grocery stores or delis) in dried form. They get soaked for many hours, and then cooked for a relatively long time, in terra cotta pots (traditionally). They contain a fair amount of protein, so they're a great source of protein for vegetarians, as well as for people who can't afford to buy much meat.
Even the cooking water from the beans doesn't go to waste, but gets pureed with a portion of the beans themselves, making a great vegetarian brodo (broth) for the kind of soups that are particularly popular in Tuscany.
There's talk, in this week's video about famous Italian chef Gualtiero Marchesi, about the type of lunch that would be served in his parents' trattoria (small family run restaurant), which catered to workers, and consisted of humble ingredients and dishes.
...un ristorante frequentato, fondamentalmente,
...a restaurant frequented, fundamentally
da operatori di questo tipo,
by workers of this type,
quindi un ristorante dove si facevano panini,
therefore a restaurant where they made sandwiches,
dove si faceva la trippa,
where they made tripe,
e dove si facevano ... non so i fagioli.
and where they made ... I don't know, beans.
Captions 3-8, L'arte della cucina - La Prima IdentitáPlay Caption
Trippa (tripe), from the first stomach of the cow, is (or was) one of the more inexpensive animal proteins, which is why Gualtiero talks about it being a popular dish at his parents' trattoria. See this article about preparing la trippa!
Fagioli may seem like an unassuming, inexpensive, simple contorno (side dish), but when conditi (seasoned) with high quality olio extravergine di oliva (extra virgin olive oil), they become a delicious classic dish appreciated by diners all over Italy.
Alimenti: Food and fuel
In an episode of Commissario Manara, someone is worried about having to pay alimenti (alimony).
Sto aspettando il divorzio dalla mia ex moglie e...
I'm waiting for a divorce from my ex-wife and...
conoscendola quella... veniva a saperlo,
knowing her, that one... if she found out,
poi mi tartassava con gli alimenti.
she would have hit me hard for alimony.
Captions 66-67, Il Commissario Manara - S1EP5 - Il Raggio VerdePlay Caption
But there’s much more to this word than supporting one’s ex. The various forms of the word have to do with fuel, energy, food, and nutrition. Here are a few related terms:
And speaking of alimentazione sana...
Elegant finger food
In an episode of La Ladra, there’s a discussion about pinzimonio between Eva and her new cook, Dante.
Come vuole Lei, solo pensavo che con il suo pinzimonio
As you wish, I just thought that with your raw vegetable dish
una salsa in più ci stesse bene. Eh?!
one more sauce would fit in well. Huh?
Captions 24-25, La Ladra - EP. 1 - Le cose cambianoPlay Caption
There’s no good one-word translation of pinzimonio, but it’s certainly worth explaining (and tasting). Basically, it’s an elegant method (called in pinzimonio) of eating plain raw vegetables by dipping them into a little dish filled with good olive oil and salt. Pepper, vinegar, and other ingredients may be added at the diner’s discretion. You can’t get simpler than pinzimonio, but if the olio extravergine d’oliva is of good quality, and the vegetables are fresh and appealing, then it’s a wonderful way to eat a light second course, side dish, or appetizer.
Vegetables used for la verdura in pinzimonio are, to name a few: carote (carrots), cipolla fresca (fresh spring or green onions), finocchio (fennel bulbs), young tender carciofi (artichokes), cetrioli (cucumbers), il sedano bianco (white celery), la belga (Belgian endive), peperoni (bell peppers), and ravanelli (radishes).
The verb pinzare means “to clamp” or “to pinch closed,” so it’s easy to visualize holding a piece of carota or sedano between thumb and fingers in order to dip it in the olive oil.
And for those (like most Italians) who love their pasta...
Yabla has a series about cooking called L'Arte della Cucina (the art of cooking) and in a segment about chef Gualtiero Marchesi, he talks about il raviolo. Usually we see this word in the plural, i ravioli, because there’s usually more than one of them sul piatto (on the plate). In this particular case there was just one large beautiful raviolo on each plate.
Un giorno, sentendo un'amica
One day, talking with a friend
che diceva che aveva mangiato dei ravioli tutti aperti,
who said she had eaten ravioli all opened,
sai, quando stanno [ci sono] i banchetti, così,
you know, when there are banquets, and such,
mi venne in mente così di fare il raviolo aperto,
that's how it came to mind to make an open "raviolo,"
è stato un tutt'uno.
it was all one thing.
Captions 26-28, L'arte della cucina - I Luoghi del MondoPlay Caption
We’re talking here about pasta ripiena (filled pasta). With the exception of Marchesi’s “open” raviolo, there are normally two layers of la sfoglia (fresh egg pasta dough) with a ripieno di carne (meat filling) or ripieno di spinaci e ricotta (spinach and ricotta filling), but there are many variations.
Ravioli, tortelli, tortelloni, agnolotti, or pansotti each have their traditional forme (shapes), ripieni (fillings), and condimenti (sauces), which range from simple burro e salvia (butter and sage) to an elaborate ragù (meat sauce). Tortellini and cappelletti are filled pasta, but are bite-sized, and almost exclusively made with a ripieno di carne. One favorite way to eat them is in brodo (in broth). Don’t forget the parmigiano!
Ravioli and other types of filled pasta are best eaten in restaurants where they’re a specialty. There are plenty of calories in pasta, and especially in pasta ripiena, so why not follow it (or precede it) with a pinzimonio to maintain un’alimentazione sana!
Italy is known for its three-course lunches and dinners, but in most cities and towns, there’ll be a more casual type of place where you can get take out, eat at a little table, or mangiare in piedi (eat standing up).
Pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) is very popular all over Italy, especially in Rome. As Anna explains, prices vary according to size and what’s on the pizza.
Tu scegli il pezzo di pizza, viene pesato,
You choose the piece of pizza, it's weighed,
a seconda del tipo di pizza, ha un prezzo diverso al chilo,
depending on the kind of pizza, it has a varying price per kilo,
e paghi a seconda della grandezza e del peso
and you pay depending on the size and the weight
di pizza che hai scelto.
of the pizza you've chosen.
Captions 79-81, Anna e Marika - Pizza al taglio romanaPlay Caption
You can certainly find pizza al taglio in Tuscany, but in addition, and baked in the same oven, you’ll often see la cecina, made from farina di ceci (chickpea flour). Learn more here. Liguria and Tuscany, as well as Puglia have focaccia, in some areas called schiacciata, which is made with flour, water, oil and yeast, like pizza, and often takes the place of bread. You’ll find it in bakeries, bars, and pizzerie. As a quick snack, Romagna has the piadina, a flat bread made with lard rather than olive oil, which gets filled with cured meats or cheese. Learn more here.
A way for people to get together socially, without having to spend lots of money on dinner, is to have drinks before they go home for dinner: fare or prendere l’aperitivo (to have an aperitif). As we’ll see, aperitivo has different sfumature (shades of meaning).
Prima di andare a cena, quindi verso le sei o le sette,
Before going to have dinner, so, around six or seven o'clock,
gli italiani fanno un aperitivo.
Italians have cocktails.
Captions 1-2, Corso di italiano con Daniela - L'aperitivoPlay Caption
Adriano, in describing his day, includes an aperitivo, at least on the weekend.
Mi rilasso e mi sfogo con gli amici dopo una lunga giornata di lavoro.
I relax and I let off steam with my friends after a long day of work.
Mi concedo qualche aperitivo e poi anche qualche cocktail alcolico.
I allow myself some aperitifs and then also some cocktails.
Captions 48-51, Adriano - GiornataPlay Caption
It’s pretty clear that Adriano considers aperitivo in its broader sense, and he uses qualche aperitivo here to mean a few appetizers. For an explanation of how to use qualche, see this previous lesson. For the drink itself, Adriano uses "cocktail.” As with most English words integrated into the Italian language, "cocktail" will remain in the singular no matter how many he has.
While the aperitivo, usually served with patatine (potato chips) or olive (olives), is an established ritual in most parts of Italy, one of the latest trends is the apericena. If you combine aperitivo (drinks) with cena (dinner), you get apericena. What is it? It’s drinks and appetizers, both savory and sweet, that are varied and abundant enough to replace dinner, served buffet style. The apericena exists both in bars about town, offering an alternative to a costly tab in a restaurant, and in homes, making for a relatively low-budget, flexible, and fashionable alternative to a sit-down dinner. It encourages mingling, conversation, and allows for guests to just stop by. These light buffet dinners are becoming more and more popular all over Italy.
All over the world there's a tendency to take foreign words and knowingly or unknowingly give them a meaning different from the original. So, be aware that in bars, the apericena or the aperitivo (depending on how much there is to eat) is sometimes called a “happy hour,” which in Italy is not about discounts on drinks as in the United States, but rather having drinks accompanied by a small buffet of stuzzichini (appetizers) for a fixed, though variable, price. The word for “toothpick” in Italian is stuzzicadenti. Little bite-size appetizers are often served with toothpicks, thus the term stuzzichini. If you travel to Venice, you'll want to check out the Venetian version of stuzzichini: cicchetti.
Learn more here. This is an important tip, given that it’s quite a challenge finding good food at reasonable prices in Venezia.
During the summer, one nice thing to do on a hot afternoon is prendere un gelato (go for ice cream), especially if you’re with friends and you happen to pass una gelateria. You might want to be the one to treat everyone. If so, then the verb you need here is offrire (to offer).
Allora, sai che facciamo?
So, you know what we'll do?
Per festeggiare, ti offro un gelato.
To celebrate, I'll treat you to an ice cream.
Captions 35-36, Francesca - alla guidaPlay Caption
When somebody looks ready to pull out his wallet, that’s the time to say, offro io! (I’m buying!)
In a gelateria, there are various prices relating to how many scoops, or palline (little balls), of gelato you get on your cono (cone) or in your coppetta (little cup), and the good news is that each scoop can be a different gusto (flavor).
As far as gusti go, rarely will you find vaniglia (vanilla), but you will find fior di latte or fior di panna (or even panna fredda in the Bologna area).
Why these names? Fiore (flower) can be used as an adjective, fior, to describe something as being special, of the best quality, in this case, latte (milk) or panna (cream). Think of something flourishing or blossoming. In fact, fior fiore is an expression used outside the realm of gelato to mean “the cream of the crop” (la crème de la crème). So we’re talking about the best quality milk, the best quality cream.
Theoretically, that’s what goes into this kind of gelato, which, whatever the gelataio chooses to call it (fior di latte, fior di panna, or panna fredda), refers to gelato with no added flavoring, just the taste of the milk, cream, and sugar. It’s white in color, and naturally, this “neutral” flavor goes well with all the other gusti.
Gelato alla crema, on the other hand, is made with the above ingredients, plus eggs, and because of this, is rich, yellow, and more custardy. It’s probably the closest you’ll get to “vanilla.” It’s the kind of gelato that ends up on top of fragole (strawberries) or macedonia (fruit salad).
Una macedonia con il gelato alla crema.
A fruit salad with vanilla ice cream.
OK, alla crema, perfetto.
OK, vanilla, perfect.
Captions 39-40, Una gita - al lagoPlay Caption
Apart from the ever popular cioccolato, other well-loved flavors are:
stracciatella (shredded chocolate laced through fior di latte, from stracciare [to shred])
gianduia (chocolate and hazelnut)
amarena (fior di latte laced with amarene [sour cherries] in their syrup)
...and many more! Italians like to combine the flavors on the same cone or in the same little dish. They may even use a little spoon to eat the ice cream off the cone!
If you’re invited to someone’s home for dinner in the summertime, it’s rarely a mistake to bring, as a gift, a vaschetta (little tub) of gelato. Pick a variety of gusti so there’s something for everyone. The gelataio will give you a polistirolo (styrofoam) container so it stays cold.
Summer can be a great time to reinforce a foreign language experience. If you’ve already seen the Yabla offerings of Italian TV episodes like Medico in Famiglia or Commissario Manara, try watching an entire puntata (episode) from start to finish without the captions. You might be surprised at how much you understand!
For a greater challenge, watch some classic Italian movies with (or without) subtitles, such as:
Fellini films like La Strada or La Dolce Vita, which are mentioned in the interviews with Fellini on Yabla, and Lina Wertmüller’s Pasqualino Sette Bellezze from which Yabla featured the ironic and humoristic opening song from the soundtrack. See also the interview with Lina Wertmüller.