Cabbage for Snack: 10 Italian Food Idioms

“Language and food. Two of the biggest exemplars of culture which are regularly juxtaposed and compared. Every culture communicates just as every culture eats, and it is how they do both which distinguishes one culture from another. The individual food items which make up meals and formulate the whole culinary culture of a nation, are the same as the single words which create phrases and go on to construct a whole language. Within a culinary culture, there are variations between regional cuisine, the same as dialects in a language.”

Zachi Brewster


As the quote from Zachi Brewster points out, food and language are two quintessential representations of every culture. She suggests that when we learn a new language, we also get acquainted with a new cuisine. Therefore, not only we become bi-lingual but also bi-cuisinal!

Having said that, why not expand our knowledge of Italian with some food idioms? Here follows a selected list of 10 essential food idioms to know:


IT foodidioms intext1Buono come il pane: to have a heart of gold (literally: “to be as good as bread”).

Essere un pezzo di pane: to be good and generous (literally: “to be a piece of bread”).

Trovare pane per i propri denti: to meet one’s match /something to sink one’s teeth into.

Dire pane al pane, vino al vino: to call a spade a spade (literally, “to say that bread is bread, wine is wine”).

Guadagnarsi il pane: to bring home the bacon.

Vendere / Andare come il pane: to sell like hotcakes.


IT foodidioms intext2


Entrarci come i cavoli a merenda: to be out of place (literally: “to be like cabbages for snack”)

Tutto fumo e poco arrosto: all talk and no action (literally: “all smoke and no roast”)

Essere come il prezzemolo: to turn up everywhere (literally: “to be like parsley”)

Essere alla frutta: to be at the bottom of the barrel (literally: “to be at the fruit”).


Do you know other food idioms? If yes, write them in the comments below!


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