A Look at Favourite Italian Food-Related Sayings

Alberto Sordi's Maccheroni Challenge in Steno's “Un americano a Roma” (1954)
Alberto Sordi's Maccheroni Challenge in Steno's “Un americano a Roma” (1954)
Considering food is at the core of Italian society and that Italian ingredients and dishes are known the world over, it’s no wonder that the language is full of expressions related to food. The following are some of the most well-known phrases that are worth getting to know.

A tavola non si invecchia

No one can escape the fast pace of modern life, not even Italians who have adopted a more North American approach to life on the go. But for most, suppertime remains a time to sit, eat, enjoy and relax. It’s only fitting, then, that Italians have concocted the saying “a tavola non si invecchia” or “one does not age at the table.” And any North American who has enjoyed a supper at a friend’s house in Italy – and is still nibbling, sipping wine and chatting three hours later – can attest to the truth of this phrase.

Buono come il pane

The aroma and taste of freshly baked Italian bread fully explains the existence of the expression, “buono come il pane” or “as good as bread.” Italians use it in the same way North Americans use “as good as gold.” If an Italian describes a person or thing as “buono come il pane,” it doesn’t get much better than that.

Conosco i miei polli

“I know my own chicken.” What an odd thing to say? But things make more sense when you accompany it with an all-knowing look, a determined nodding of the head, and of course, say it in Italian with brimming confidence, “conosco i miei polli.” The expression means, “I know what I’m talking about,” and it’s a phrase uttered by Italian mothers all around the world.

È andato liscio come l’olio

Olive oil is considered one of Italy’s nutritious superstars, so it’s only natural that it’s referenced in conversation even when the situation at hand is not directly about food. If your board meeting this morning went smoothly or your first day on the job went without a hitch, an Italian would say “è andato liscio come l’olio” (it went smooth as oil).

Fare una spaghettata

If you’re among a circle of Italian friends (whether in Italy or Canada) and you’re invited a fare una spaghtettata (to eat spaghetti), you aren’t really being invited for just spaghetti. In fact, spaghetti might not even be served. It’s just a whimsical way of saying “getting together to eat.” The emphasis is on good food, good friends and good conversation.

Sei sempre in mezzo come il prezzemolo

Parsley is one of the most beloved of Italian herbs and it’s a ubiquitous part of the country’s cuisine. Italians put parsley – whether as a base ingredient or garnish – in antipastos, soups, pasta dishes, and fish or meat courses. This habit of being everywhere all the time is the motivation behind the phrase “sei sempre in mezzo come il prezzemolo!” (you are always in the way like parsley!). So, in other words, stop being a nuisance, mind your own business, and get out of the way!

Sono pieno come un uovo

No more for me, thanks, I’m stuffed, or as the Italians would say, “sono pieno come un uovo,” which translates as “I am full as an egg.” To be sure, it’s an odd expression and an even quirkier image. But considering the English-speaking world invented the phrase “stuffed to the gills” (a reference to fish being stuffed before being cooked) to express being full after a meal, “sono pieno come un uovo” is the clear winner.

Tutto fa brodo

Every one of us knows a frugal family member who reuses unprocessed stamps or is fond of regifting. Well, these are the sorts who gladly live by the expression “tutto fa brodo” (everything makes soup), which stands for “every bit helps.” The concept originates from the introduction of Italian peasant soups, many of which were based on inexpensive ingredients, but with the right dose of love, creativity and resourcefulness, they became hearty meals to feed a large family.



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