How to Order Seafood in Italian

Tue, 08/13/2019 - 10:53
How to Order Seafood in Italian

Being by the sea in Italy often give us an opportunity to try new and delicious fish dishes. When you look at the menu in a restaurant along the Italian coast, how will you know what to order?

Fish is served in a variety of ways in Italian cuisine including grilled, baked and fried, as well in pasta and risotto dishes. 

Here are names of some fish you will commonly find in Italian restaurants:


Il polpo / la piovra – octopus

La seppia - cuttlefish

Le cozze – mussels

Le vongole – clams

I gamberi – prawns / shrimp

I gamberoni – king or tiger prawns

I calamari - calamari

Le ostriche – oysters

L’aragosta / l’astice - lobster

Il granchio - crab

Il baccalà – salt cod

La spigola / Il branzino – sea bass

Il merluzzo - cod

L’orata – sea bream

Lo sgombro – mackerel

Le sarde – sardines

La sogliola - sole

Il rombo – turbot

Il tonno – tuna

Il pesce spada - swordfish

Il salmone – salmon

La trota - trout

Le acciughe / le alici – anchovies


Sometimes these fish will be part of a particular dish or cooked in a certain way. Here we look at some typical Italian fish dishes, or ways of cooking fish that it can be helpful to know:


-      Pasta allo scoglio – mixed shellfish pasta (literally: pasta of the rocks)

-       Spaghetti alle vongole – spaghetti with clams

-      Spaghetti con le cozze – spaghetti with mussels

-      Fritto misto di pesce / La frittura di pesce – mixed fried fish. You may also find the fish specified, such as le acciuche fritte – fried anchovies

-      Linguine al nero di seppia – Linguini with black cuttlefish ink

-      La zuppa di pesce – fish soup

-      L’insalata di gamberi – prawn salad

-      L’insalata di mare – fish salad (literally: salad of the sea)

-      Baccalà mantecato – creamed cod, a Venetian speciality sometimes served on toast

-      Polpette di pesce – Fish balls or fish patties

-      Spiedini di pesce – fish kebabs or fish skewers

-      Pesce all’acqua pazza – poached fish in a broth with tomatoes (literally: fish in crazy water), so for example: la spigola all’acqua pazza – Sea bass cooked in a broth with tomatoes, garlic and parsley

-      Pesce al cartoccio – fish cooked in a tin foil or baking paper parcel (literally: fish in a paper cone), this could be l’orata al cartoccio – sea bream cooked in a parcel

-      L’orata al sale – sea bream (or another white fish) baked in salt


If you would prefer your fish to be served whole or in fillets, it may be priced by ‘l’etto’, which is the price per 100 grams. If you would like it to be deboned or filleted, you can use either of these two verbs:


Sfilettare – to fillet

Spinare – to debone


Potresti sfilettare il pesce? – Could you fillet the fish?

La trota è già spinata – The trout is deboned


The word for fish bones in Italian is ‘le spine’ and not the same as the word for human or animal bones, which is ‘le ossa’. I learnt this the hard way when I once asked a waiter to remove the wrong kind of bones from my fish! I’m sure you can learn from my mistakes and successfully order and enjoy some wonderful Italian fish dishes this summer!