Menu Misspellings and Other Italian Food Pet Peeves…

I have a huge problem with misspellings on menus. Apparently, I am not the only one! I am sure you are puzzled when picking up a menu in Italy you read “sanduich”, or “sanwitch”, or the other horrific spellings my compatriots can devise… We all love our native language!

These are my personal pet peeves- the ones that would prevent me from trying a culprit restaurant!

Common Menu Issues

Proscuitto: It’s called prosciutto. Proscuitto is one of the things that will prevent me from setting foot in a restaurant serving it!

Parmegian: Parmesan is the English version, and the full Italian spelling is Parmigiano. Without going into the details of the difference implied in using the two words (which has to do with the product certification and a lot of bureaucracy!), either one or the other will work just fine!

Bruscetta: The Italian name is bruschetta. “Ch” is pronounced as a k, a letter that doesn’t exist in the Italian alphabet. It’s spelled bruschetta and it’s pronounced “brusketta”!

Pizza Margarita: A pizza created in Napoli in occasion of the visit of the Queen Margherita di Savoia and named after the Queen herself. So, it’s Margherita.

Macaroni: I am not sure I know what to say to this. It’s maccheroni.

The Plurals

  • Linguini: It’s linguine. It’s considered a “feminine” noun in Italian, so for a native speaker “linguini” is more evocative of the Ratatouille chef than the Italian pasta…
  • Cannolis: One cannolo, two cannoli. There is no such thing as a cannolis. It’s like a double plural!
  • Panini: One panino, two panini. When you order chicken panini, but then they serve only one, it’s always a disappointment… :)
  • Salami: One salame, two salami, and that only refers to the actual salame sausage! If you want to say: a pizza with different types of salame, you’d say “Pizza with salumi“, not salami!
  • Scaloppini: another feminine noun, so the correct form is scaloppine

The double consonant suite:

  • Fusili is written with two Ls: Fusilli;
  • Putanesca is written with two Ts: Puttanesca;
  • Arrabiata or Arabbiata- two Bs and two Rs: Arrabbiata;
  • Picatta: My favorite one. It has a double, but in a different place: It’s two Cs and one Ts: Piccata.

Misunderstandings

Pasta Alfredo: Italian-American cooking is delicious- and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. However, it’s quite different from Italian food from Italy. Pasta Alfredo falls into this category- this item on the menu is a sure sign the chef is not aiming for an original Italian experience.

Pasta Bolognese: In Italian the Bolognese sauce is called ragu’. I think the fact that there is a major brand that “stole” the term might have steered the spelling on menus toward bolognese, but just as a warning, in Italy you will find the ragu’ version!

Pepperoni: While in English it is not a misspelling of any sort, in Italian “pepperoni” is salamino piccante (literally spicy salame). In Italian pepperoni looks like a misspelling of peperoni, which means bell peppers. I will never forget the first time I was asked whether I liked pizza with pepperoni, and I thought it was the weirdest combination I have ever heard of: pizza with bell peppers??

Menu Editor

If you ever think you need to have a menu looked over by a second set of eyes, I recommend an Italian speaker whose job is to teach Italian! Email Chiara for more information!

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