Tagliatelle or calzone? We decode your favourite Italian dishes


Tagliatelle or calzone? We decode your favourite Italian dishes

Open the food menu with confidence next time you dine at an authentic Italian restaurant. From explaining your fettuccine and your linguine, and your antipasti from your primi, this guide will ensure you know exactly what you are ordering. Most of us would have been in a situation where we just didn't understand what we were ordering, but you can become the Italian food connoisseur you've always wanted to be.

Get to know your pasta

The different shapes and sizes of pasta are made for different sauces and dishes, so here is a quick guide to help you next time you are stuck trying to figure out which pasta is which at the restaurant.



Best for

Angel hairVery fine and delicate long strandsLight sauces
LinguineLong noodle about 6-9mm wide, with an elliptical cross-sectionMost sauces
Fettuccine (or tagliatelle)Long flat noodle, wider than linguineThick, meat-based sauces
SpaghettiLong, round, thin strandsNearly any sauce, as well as stir-fry dishes
PenneSmall tubesThick sauces and baked dishes
RigatoniShort tubes with ridgesThick sauces and baked dishes, similar to penne
ConchiglieSmall, shell-shaped with open cavitySoups and most sauces
RotiniShort, spiral-shapedPasta salad or most sauces, as it holds bits of meat, vegetables and cheese
FarfalleBow-tie shapedMost sauces due to thickness
RavioliSquare or round pillow-like shapes with a filling insideRed sauces or even butter, oil or cream

Even bread and pizza have different styles

There may come a time when you decide to order a different pizza to the one you have been getting your whole adult life. When that time comes, you'll want to be prepared. Depending on the restaurant you go to, you may find yourself a little confused by some of the terms used to describe types of pizza and bread. We've explained a few terms used to help build up your pizza-picking confidence.

Neapolitan pizza

White pizza


Cooked in a wood-burning oven, making for a thin crust with a puffy edge, with a tomato baseMade without a tomato base, usually replaced with oil and garlicTraditional pizza folded in half




Type of flat bread made with yeast and olive oil and usually flavoured with herbsRound or moon-shaped piece of dough folded with fillings inside, deep-friedCrispy base, usually with lots of toppings

Reading the menu

Of course it's good to know your rotini from your fettuccine, but it's also vital that you know whether you are ordering an entrée, main or dessert. Some authentic Italian resaurants tend to write in Italian on their menus, so read on to find out what these words actually mean.
Three meal types:

  • Colazione = breakfast
  • Pranzo = lunch
  • Cena = dinner



AntipastiAppetisers such as cured meats and cheeses
PrimiMeans 'first dishes', such as pasta, risotto and soup or other entrées
SecondiThe main dish, which usually involves vegetables, meat or fish
ContoriSide dishes such as vegetables, salads and potatoes
DolciDesserts such as gelato, tiramisu and cannoli
DigestiviHard liquor used to help digestion, such as grappa and limoncello

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