Italian Food Sayings

Big Night

I found these over at the Italy in SF website. It’s a nice collection. Be sure to explore the rest of the site. Do you know any other good ones?

“E’ buono come un pezzo di pane”
Literal translation: He’s as good as a piece of bread
What it means: He’s a good person, a really nice guy

“Rendere pan per focaccia”
Literal translation: To give back bread for focaccia
What it means: Similar to “an eye for an eye”, it is used metaphorically to illustrate a payback for a suffered wrong

“Avere sale in zucca”
Literal translation: To have salt in the pumpkin, although “zucca” is very often used to mean “head”- so to have salt in the head
What it means: To be smart

“E’ andato tutto liscio come l’olio”
Literal translation: It went smooth as oil
What it means: It went smooth as silk, there weren’t any problems

“L’ho comprato per un tozzo di pane”
Literal translation: I bought it for a piece of bread
What it means: It was a real deal, very underpriced compared to its value

“C’entra come i cavoli a merenda”
Literal translation: It fits like cabbage for the afternoon snack
What it means: It doesn’t fit, it’s inappropriate

“Sei sempre in mezzo come il prezzemolo”
Literal translation: You are always in the way like parsley (referring to the vast use of parsley in Italian cooking!)
What it means: You mingle in things that are not your own, you are always in the way

“Tenero come il burro”
Literal translation: It’s as soft as butter
What it means: It is very tender, it usually refers to meat or other foods, and sometimes to people

“E’ dolce come lo zucchero”
Literal translation: It’s as sweet as sugar
What it means: Pretty self-explanatory, usually used to describe fruit it is also used for people sometimes)

“Sono pieno come un uovo”
Literal translation: I am as full as an egg
What it means: I am stuffed, I can’t eat anymore (very useful when someone is trying to fill your plate yet again!)

“Avere il prosciutto sugli occhi”
Literal translation: To have ham (prosciutto) over your eyes
What it means: To be unable to see the truth, either figuratively (somebody’s trying to trick you and you don’t see it) or realistically (the referee didn’t see the foul as he had prosciutto over his eyes)

“Avere le mani in pasta”
Literal translation: To have the hands in the dough
What it means: To be very well connected, to know how to pull strings

“Questa cosa mi sta sullo stomaco”
Literal translation: This thing sits on my stomach
What it means: This thing is really unpleasant and annoying. Often also said of people (Questa persona mi sta sullo stomaco)

“Essere rosso come un peperone”
Literal translation: To be red as a bell pepper
What it means: To look lobster red- said of a sunburn but also of someone who’s blushing

“E’ facile come rubare le caramelle a un bambino”
Literal translation: It’s easy as stealing candies from a child
What it means: It is very simple task that anyone can do

“Ha la faccia da pesce lesso”
Literal translation: He has the face of a boiled fish
What it means: He looks like someone uninteresting and uninterested, not someone you want to make friends with

“Quella persona ha il pelo sullo stomaco”
Literal translation:  That person has hair on his stomach
What it means: It is said of people who are unethical, reckless, and overall willing to push the limits of legality in business

“Questa cosa/ questa persona e’ amara come la cicoria”
Literal translation: this thing/ person is as bitter as chicory
What it means: Said of something bitter in taste, but also of a bitter person

“E’ rigido come un baccala’”
Literal translation: He is a as rigid as salted cod
What it means: He is not comfortable, he looks stiff

“Avere le mani di pastafrolla”
Literal translation: To have pastry dough hands
What it means: To be unable to hold something without dropping it, to be clumsy

“Questa persona e’ un polentone”
Literal translation: This person is a polenta eater
What it means: This person is physically slow, awkward, goofy

“Mettere la ciliegina sulla torta”
Literal translation: To put the cherry on top of the cake
What it means: To wrap up something in the best possible way (same as the English “Cherry on top”)

“Ridotto all’osso”
Literal translation: Something reduced to the bone
What it means: As bare-bone as it gets- often said of a price during bargaining, or of a family budget, it means it has been rid of the excess, muck like bones used to make stock.

“Questa cosa mi fa venire il latte alle ginocchia”
Literal translation: This thing gives milk in my knees (good one, uh??)
What it means: It is said of something (or someone) boring and exasperating, something that makes you want to get away as fast as possible!

Be sure to see the details of Gianni’s guided cooking trip to Italy in September.