Where do the Italian Names for Foods Come From? – Part 1

Where do the Italian Names for Foods Come From? – Part 1

What does rollatini or manicotti mean? Are carbonara, scallopini and portofino really names of Italian dishes or names for exotic sports cars? And what could the word pasta possibly mean? Well, I suppose we know the answer to that one, and others may seem obvious as well, but they end up having totally different meanings than expected since both Italian and English share many latin root words. Italy is in the same exact area that Latin was spoken, and English is of a germanic origin, but borrowing many many root words from Roman and Latin sources. As well, remember that some of these words may not refer to a single dish, or an ingredient, but a technique of creating said food.

Appetizers — Antipasto in Italian

No, this is not one of the names that can be explained by what is sounds like it should be, for example it’s not anti-pasta food. Most salads that are slightly smaller in size, or good for prepping your appetite, are labelled antipasto.


The word Bruschetta comes from the Roman word “bruscare” meaning to cook over coals. Bruschetta is simply grilled bread topped with garlic, olive oil and salt. It can also be served with vegetables, namely things like tomatoes, beans, and eggplants. Sometimes they include different types of meat and cheeses, however, which type of cheese and meat depends on the region. Certain regions using goat cheese, while others use ham instead of beef.


Cacciatore in Italian means “hunter”, thus any meals prepared in this way is considered “hunter-style”. That means that this can be a term applied to many various dishes, as it is a means of cooking. Many ingredients found in the countryside are used, and the dishes it is normally used to prepare revolves mainly around chicken, but also can less commonly be used for the preparation of small game and other meat. Especially domestically, olive oil is added, then the chicken, and after adding some more seasonings it is grilled on both sides. The grilled chicken is taken and the olive oil that has been combined with the salt and pepper and chicken is poured to use to cook the onions, peppers, mushrooms and marinara sauce after as needed. This allows all of the ingredients to share a similar base palette. Other herbs can now be added, then it is all added after searing of the meat, letting it simmer for some time. There are alternate routes but this is one way of preparation.

There are also several ingredients that share the same name in Italian that they have in English. Many pastas actually happen to fall under this category. There is a part two to this series, and it is available now. Both of these aim to help you put a meaning to all the words commonly used for Italian cuisine. These dishes have been generated over a several thousand year history, meaning that the words pull from all sources. Italy borrowed from the Roman(Latin), Latin borrowed from the Greek, and the Greek were essentially the start of recorded history.