> SlowTrav > Italy > Instructions for Visitors > Language Resources > Language Lessons

Italian Language Lessons: Caffe Talk

Steve Cohen

This section covers the language basics of ordering espresso drinks with accompanying pastries at a caffe.

The Italian caffe is easily found by looking for a sign which includes one of the words "caffe" or "bar". Usually, these casual gathering spots are fairly easy to find; even small villages generally have one or two. The ordering procedure varies somewhat depending on the establishment.

While some caffe have waiters who will take your order as you sit at a table and others require you to order and pay in advance at the cash register, most commonly you will order at the bar, either consume your order at the bar or carry it to a table and pay when you are ready to leave (which may be after you have gone back to order additional items).

See our section Italy - Food/Restaurants - Caffes for detailed information on ordering, paying and with a sample menu.

Starting Your Order

The waiter or bartender will say one of the following to you:

ENGLISH ITALIAN SAY IT LIKE THIS
yes? see
tell me (mi) dica (mee) DEE-kah
go ahead prego PREH-goh

Ordering Coffee Drinks

The basic coffee drink is espresso, the strong Italian coffee served in a small espresso cup. Some handy phrases for ordering:

ENGLISH ITALIAN SAY IT LIKE THIS
I would like vorrei vohr-RAY
we would like vorremmo vohr-REHM-moh
a (one) un, una oon, OO-nah

These are some things you can order:

ENGLISH ITALIAN SAY IT LIKE THIS
coffee caffè kahf-FEH
espresso espresso ehs-PREHS-soh
cappuccino cappuccino kahp-poot-CHEE-noh
coffee with a small amount of hot milk caffè macchiato kahf-FEH mahk-KYAH-toh
tea teh

To add another item to your order:

ENGLISH ITALIAN SAY IT LIKE THIS
and e eh
also anche AHN-keh
another ancora ahn-KOH-rah

Use "ancora" if you return for more; e.g. ancora due caffe.

To order more than one of something, you will need to know how to say the number and the plural word for what you are ordering. The following phrases describe two of the same items as above; for more on numbers see the Italian Counts section.

ENGLISH ITALIAN SAY IT LIKE THIS
two due DOO-eh

These are the plurals of things you can order.

ENGLISH ITALIAN SAY IT LIKE THIS
coffees caffè kahf-FEH
espressos espressi ehs-PREHS-see
cappuccinos cappuccini kahp-poot-CHEE-nee
coffees with hot milk caffe macchiati kahf-FEH mahk-KYAH-tee
tea teh

Ordering Pastries

Coffee and a sweet pastry constitute the standard Italian breakfast. If pastries are available, they will usually be on display at the counter. Some pertinent phrases:

ENGLISH ITALIAN SAY IT LIKE THIS
a "croissant" un cornetto oon kohr-NEHT-toh
a pastry una pasta OO-nah PAH-sta
a pastry una brioche OO-nah bree-OHSH

The cornetto is a commonly available breakfast pastry, often described as the "Italian croissant". The French word "croissant" is usually understood.

Pasta is a more generic term, literally, paste or dough. The "noodles" type of pasta is referenced by the same word but with a "some" type quantity (della pasta) rather than a "number of" type quantity (una pasta). Brioche is also commonly used to refer to a sweet pastry item (including a cornetto with sugary icing).

And to order more than one:

ENGLISH ITALIAN SAY IT LIKE THIS
two "croissants" due cornetti DOO-eh kohr-NEHT-tee
two pastries due paste DOO-eh PAH-steh
two pastries due brioche DOO-eh bree-OHSH

The cornettos may or may not have a filling.

ENGLISH ITALIAN SAY IT LIKE THIS
with con kohn
jam marmellata mahr-mehl-LAH-tah
custard crema KREH-mah
plain senza niente SEHN-tsah NYEHN-teh

"Senza niente" literally means "without nothing". The double negative is jarring to English speakers, but is OK in spoken Italian.

Selecting the right one:

ENGLISH ITALIAN SAY IT LIKE THIS
which quale KWAH-leh
or o oh
I'll take prendo PREHN-doh
we'll take prendiamo prehn-DYAH-moh
this one questo KWEH-stoh
You may point and say "questo" or the bartender may confirm your choice by pointing and saying "questo?"
that one quello KWEHL-loh
If the one you want isn't "questo", it may be "quello". Once everything is prepared, the bartender will present you with it or, possibly indicate that if you wish to sit at a table he will bring it to you.

Concluding Your Order

At this point, the following phrases may be used.

ENGLISH ITALIAN SAY IT LIKE THIS
that's all è tutto eh TOOT-toh
depending on inflection this can be both question and answer
okay va bene vah BEH-neh
everything is fine - both question and answer with different inflection
here it is - "there you go" ecco EHK-koh
thank you grazie GRAH-tsyeh
you are welcome prego PREH-goh

Paying

When you are done and wish to leave, you must usually return to the bar counter to pay. When you again have the bartenders attention, you indicate you wish to pay, hope the bartender remembers what you had (but if not, list the items) and pay the amount the bartender calculates. Remember to use the tray near the cash register to place your money and receive any change - money is not handed directly.

ENGLISH ITALIAN SAY IT LIKE THIS
I would like to pay vorrei pagare vohr-RAY pah-GAH-reh
could you write it? può scriverlo pwoh SKREE-vehr-loh

Usually, you will get a printed receipt. If not and you don't understand the amount when spoken in Italian, have it written down as a last resort.

Sample Dialog

A complete sample dialog follows. You are ordering coffee and pastry for yourself and one other person.

We use a voice synthesizer program to generate the audio dialogs, but for this one we have "real voices"! Carlo Curino and Matteo Giani from Milan recorded our dialog and sent us the file. Carlo is the voice of the customer, Matteo the waiter.

Right click on the link below to download the MP3 file, then play on your computer as you read this dialog. (mp3 file, 739kb)

Right click to download MP3 soundtrack
If you click on this link, instead of right click, it downloads first, then plays.

Dialog

  • you (entering the caffe with your companion): Buon giorno.
  • bartender: Buon giorno. Dica.
  • you: Vorremmo due espressi e due cornetti, per favore.
  • bartender (indicating selection of pastries): Quali?
  • you (pointing): È questo con marmellata?
  • bartender (pointing): No, questo e quello sono con marmellata.
  • you (indicating your two choices): Va bene, prendiamo questo e questo.

The bartender hands over pastries and makes the coffees.

  • bartender: Ecco!
  • you: Grazie.
  • bartender: Prego.

You take the coffees and pastries to a table and enjoy them, then return to pay before leaving.

  • you: Vorrei pagare.
  • bartender (printing receipt): Allora, due caffè, due paste ... cinque euro e quaranta centesimi (5.40 euro, around 6 dollars).

The price was 1.20 euro for each espresso and 1.50 euro each for the pastries - more expensive because you were sitting outside. Inside, the espresso costs only 70 cents each.

  • you (carefully putting money in tray): Grazie.
  • bartender: Grazie a lei.
  • you (leaving): Arrivederci.
  • bartender: Arrivederci.

Note:

I have included our original voice synthesizer audio file here. This file is larger (739kb).
Right click to download MP3 soundtrack (mp3 file, 1.51mb)

Back to Top

Car Rental Hotel Booking Flight Booking Train Tickets Books, Maps, Events
Europe Cell Phones Long Distance Cards Luggage, etc. Travel Insurance Classifieds

* Advertise on Slow Travel | Post your travel questions on the Slow Travel Forums

Copyright © 2000 - 2014 SlowTrav.com, unless noted otherwise. Slow Travel® is a registered trademark. Contact Slow Travel

RSS Feeds - Link to Us - Disclaimer - Privacy Policy - Currency Converter - Colophon - Sponsors - Become a Member
Home | Forums | Slow Travel? | Europe Trip Planning | Photos | Trip Reports | Search | About Us | Classifieds