Spaghettieater

 Food-Related Italian Sayings

A guest post by Michele Frolla

It seems only natural that the language of a culture with such a delicious cuisine would be peppered (no pun intended) with sayings referring to pizza, pasta, meatballs and even parsley! Here are some common Italian sayings with their literal translations plus their English equivalents:

1. Sei come il prezzemolo!

Literally: You’re like parsley!

English equivalent: To turn up everywhere

Parsley is a common ingredient found in many Italian dishes, so if you’re like parsley, you pop up everywhere or are in the way.

2. Avere le mani di pasta frolla

Literally: To have pastry dough hands

English equivalent: To be a butterfingers

This one describes someone who is clumsy and unable to hold something without dropping it.

3. Non fare il salame!

Literally: Don’t act like salami!

English equivalent: Don’t be an idiot!

To be clumsy, slow, silly or very naive and gullible.

4. Conosco i miei polli.

Literally: I know my chickens

English equivalent: To know like the back of your hand

Knowing your chickens (the basics) means that you know what you’re talking about.

5. Avere sale in zucca.

Literally: You've got salt on your pumpkin

English equivalent: You're smart as a whip.  

Zucca can colloquially mean "head." To an Italian, you're clever if you know to sprinkle salt on pumpkin and other winter squashes to balance their natural sweetness.

6. C'entra come i cavoli a merenda.

Literally: As appropriate as cabbage for a snack

English equivalent: Having nothing to do with, sticking out like a sore thumb

7. Finire a tarallucci e vino.

Literally: To end up with tarallucci cookies/biscuits and wine

English equivalent: All's well that ends well.

When a dispute or unpleasantness ends amicably, it basically means not to worry; everything’s going to be just fine.

8. Avere il prosciutto sugli occhi.

Literally: To have ham over your eyes

English equivalent: To have your head in the sand

9. Chi si loda, s'imbroda.

Literally: He who praises himself, gets broth all over himself

English equivalent: To toot your own horn.

People who praise themselves lack credibility.

10. Cascarci come una pera (cotta).

Literally: To fall for something/someone like a (baked) pear

English equivalent: To fall head over heels, to be tricked by or become infatuated by someone

10. È rigido come un baccala.

Literally: He is a as rigid as salted cod.

English equivalent: To look stiff, used to describe someone who looks uncomfortable.

11. Rendere pan per focaccia.

Literally: To give back bread for focaccia

English equivalent: An eye for an eye, tit for tat

12. Avere le mani in pasta

Literally: To have the hands in the dough

English equivalent: To have a finger in every pie, to be very well connected

Michele Frolla is the author of How to Learn Italian Fast in 8 Hours, a simple 9-step method for beginners that focuses on the most powerful building blocks of the Italian language. For more about Michele, check out her blog, Youtube channel and Facebook page.

Dianne Hales is the author of Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered and the New York Times best-selling La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.