Cover image for Dictionary of Italian cuisine
Dictionary of Italian cuisine
Fant, Maureen B.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Hopewell, N.J. : Ecco Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xxi, 296 pages ; 24 cm
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
TX350 .F36 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Reference

On Order



What is the difference between "cappuccino and "cafe-latte? What is an "appoggiacoltello? How much is "q.b.' To find out the answers, look no further than "Dictionary of Italian Cuisine, the first comprehensive Italian-English dictionary of Italian food terminolgy. This handy reference tool provides authoritative Italian terms and English definitions for everything you'll find in Italian cookbooks and menus. Entries cover Italian foods and ingredients, cooking utencils and techniques, menu and wine terms, adjectives commonly found in Italian recipes, Italian place names, and dishes from each of Italy's twenty regions.

This lexicon is an invaluable, easy-to-use reference for anyone who needs to understand or use Italian food terminolgy -- travelers, culinary professionals, and home cooks. Whether Italian food is your love, your life, or your passion, "Dictionary of Italian Cuisine is a must for your cookbook shelf.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Fant, a New York Times travel section contributor, and Isaacs, publisher and editor of the Italian Traveler newsletter, here gather approximately 6000 entries ranging from Italian foods and ingredients to cooking techniques and wine terms. Entries range from one or two words to a paragraph at most, as compared with John Mariani's The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink (LJ 5/15/98), which has fewer entries but generally provides more detailed information and the occasional phrase not included here. Excellent cross-referencing and an English-Italian index steer users to the correct entry. Most libraries will want Mariani's book in their reference collections. Larger libraries, or those where there is an interest in Italian cookery, may also wish to add Dictionary of Italian Cuisine to their shelves.‘John Charles, Scottsdale P.L., AZ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



We compiled this dictionary for the most practical of reasons: we needed it ourselves in our daily work, writing about the food and restaurants of Italy. Our overfilled shelves lacked a handy and concise reference vocabulary of Italian food terms, which is what this book aims to be. The best books on Italian cooking in English tend, rightly, to focus on a single region or food category-offering depth rather than breadth-and are usually aimed at cooks. The many travelers' vocabularies that have been published ignore the kitchen and concentrate on the menu. The panorama of other culinary dictionaries has a few bright lights, but nothing wide-ranging enough for the needs of a translator faced with an unfamiliar crustacean, a cook working from recipes in Italian, a wine writer trying to unravel cellar terms, or a traveler faced with a regional menu. We have chosen to cast a wide net in collecting our terms and have provided a bibliography for readers who want details. Using this book as an aid, readers should be able to get the gist of entries in Italian-language guides and reference books, and to follow an Italian recipe. In Italy, all cooking, like politics, is local. Oh, some recipes and foods have spread up and down the country, but it is good to remember that even those ubiquitous pizzerias scarcely existed outside Naples two generations ago. Unification came late to Italy, and gastronomic unification has come even more slowly. Not long ago we found ourselves in a Milan restaurant explaining an item on the menu to a fellow diner, a Milan native. It was trofie, a well-known pasta in Liguria. But Liguria, sixty miles from where we sat, might as well have been the moon. We have also told a young Neapolitan about the Roman pajata, and explained Roman puntarelle to our hostess near Matera, in Basilicata, as she prepared a salad of cicoria catalogna -plant, different word. The common wisdom is that standard Italian is the triumph of merely a single dialect, Dante's Tuscan, but in fact, it has only been since the triumph of television that the country has been unified by a single tongue. Many dialects are alive and well, thank you, and thriving on the menu. In any case, even if the language were unified, culinary and gastronomic practices certainly would not be. And even if they were, they would not be dominated by Tuscany-contrary to the image carried by tourists and armchair travelers throughout the world. No one region would dominate. Does this book claim to contain everything? Of course not. We will be collecting Italian food terms for the rest of our lives. However, its six thousand entries contain all the basic, standard-Italian menu items, ingredients, cooking techniques, and utensils as well as a great many regional synonyms and regional dishes, and a number of important place names (including all regions and provinces). The terminology of wine description is pretty well covered; some wines and grape varieties are also included for convenience, but more comprehensive lists are already available in English. Some broad and complicated categories (meat, fish, vegetables, herbs) could have been expanded with variant regional names, additional species, and the like. However, our object was to meet the needs of food lovers and culinary professionals, not of scientists. In Greek mythology, the sea god Proteus had the power to repeatedly change form unless held firmly down, at which point he would resume his true shape and answer questions about things unknown. As we tried to make sense of several years of note-taking, we wrestled with, more than any other difficulty, the protean nature of our subject. Just when we thought we had pinned down a soup or grain or fish or cut of meat, a loose tentacle would thump us from behind and point to another name for the same food in a different region. Or the same name for a different food somewhere else. Or almost the same food with one new ingredient and the same or a different name. Or three scientific names for the same Italian fish, or herb, or salad green. In fact, perhaps the most astounding aspect of the sources we consulted, in both English and Italian, is the breezy confidence with which their authors list ingredients and assign localities. Meat is particularly difficult. To imagine the problem, visualize a map of the New York City area. Draw a triangle whose base is in Newark on the west and crosses the Hudson to lower Manhattan on the east, and whose apex is somewhere in Connecticut. Then, take the map to a cartographer and ask, "So, what do we call that?" Using Italian meat charts and pictures, we inflicted this kind of question on U.S. butchers; their ensuing bafflement should explain why some of our definitions read more like driving directions than synonyms. The Italians cut up their animals in ways quite unlike American butchers. And just to make the matter worse, there are something like a dozen different traditional systems in Italy itself Still worse, some of the same names are used to mean different cuts in different cities. And worse still, industrial meat processing in Italy adds further variation to the scheme. Except where noted, we have used the names and cuts from what is called the "national" system. Fish nomenclature is notoriously complicated. The same fish may have several Latin names, fifty Italian names, and no commonly used name at all in English. Another problem is that sometimes the same Italian (or English) name is used to identify several very different creatures. We have tried to include information on what other fish these untranslatable specimens resemble. Herbs have outrageous numbers of synonyms in every language. Where possible, the botanical taxonomy has been included, but even that is vexed; reference books and seed catalogues that contain both modem and Latin names do not list all the regional and local synonyms and varieties, and often the same herb has more than one botanical name. Nevertheless, in the end we did manage to sort out most of the herbs any English-speaking cook is likely to encounter in an Italian recipe. The vegetables were easier, even though the Brassicas (broccoli, cabbages) are numerous and their names and synonyms are thrown around with some abandon. (Continues...) Excerpted from Dictionary Of Italian Cuisine by Maureen Fant Copyright © 2003 by Maureen Fant Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.