It’s not as easy as it seems: How to order a coffee, gelato, and pizza in Italy

It looks like ordering a snack or take-out drink in Italy should not be difficult. It’s not that different from ordering a “skinny lat, venti, and no whip” at home.

We are confident that it is different. In the worst case scenario confusion can cause you to upset the server, prolong the line or even make it worse. You may end up eating the wrong food.

But don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. We’ll show you how to order gelato, pizza, and coffee like a local.


Order Gelato

We’re going to ignore the debate over what makes Italian gelato better than American ice cream for the moment and just address the main question: What is this yummy stuff made of? How can you get it?

Each gelatoeria is different. These are the steps that you need to follow for most gelaterias.


1. Choose the flavors that you like.

Flavors? Yes, flavors. You can get two to three flavors in most gelato shops. It’s great to have so many choices! Don’t be discouraged if you can’t choose between two or more.

2. Before you get to the gelato counter, pay.

You’ll find the cash register or cassa very quickly when you enter the shop. This is where you pay for your gelato. Usually, you only need to know the size of the order. In your excitement about your gelato, don’t forget to keep your receipt. Keep it.

3. Coppa o cono?

You’ll be asked whether you prefer a cup or cone, just like in the U.S. This will be asked in Italian, not the U.S. We like cups. To eat from cones, you need to have a lot of coordination. Cups are neater and more manageable. Cones are a problem for gelato purists, who would argue that they can ruin the gelato’s flavor. This is why some gelato shops do not even sell them.


4. Attract the attention of the server.

Holding your receipt in the air when there are a lot of people is a good way to go. It will also let the person know you know what you’re doing, and make it easy for him to see. Be patient if the place is packed. Everybody will be served.


5. Last-minute flavor choices?

It’s fine to request a tasting if you are still unsure about your final flavor choices. If the place is packed, you should avoid this. However, children can usually get away with this anywhere.


6. Get your order now.

After you’ve gotten the attention of the server, you can hand your receipt to him so that he knows how much you paid. Make sure to tell the server if you would like a coppa or cono. If it is packed, you should be quick. If you don’t know the Italian flavours, you can just point! For the love of gelato, don’t allow your three-year old to choose her flavors on the spot. Instead, have her plan ahead. (Unless you are the only one at the gelateria). Remember to use “nice words”, even if you don’t speak Italian. It will make everyone feel happier.


7. You can eat what you want.

Gelato, unlike other Italian food, doesn’t need to be eaten at a table. Gelato shops generally don’t offer seating inside. We recommend that you either stroll around and enjoy your gelato while enjoying it, or find a sunny spot to enjoy it outside.


Ordering Coffee

Do you need a quick pick-me up in the morning or at mid-afternoon? Follow our guidelines to cut down on coffee costs.


1. Choose what you want.

Saying “coffee” or “caffee” will give you an espresso and not American drip coffee. Caffe americano is the American style. However, it will be a shot in hot water and not filter coffee. A cappuccino coffee is made with foamy milk. A caffe macchiato coffee has just a little bit of milk.


2. First, pay.

You’ll find a cash register in the gelateria where you can pay. Before you order, do this. A standard espresso will cost around 80 cents. However, prices vary depending on where you live.


3. Get the attention of the server by going to the counter.

This can be done by simply walking up if the place is quiet or politely holding your receipt if it is more crowded. If he asks you what you want, he will usually respond with “Prego” or “Si ?”),,” but you can also tell him (caffe, caffe Americano, etc.).


4. You can drink your coffee standing.

You shouldn’t grab it and walk off to another table. You are supposed to receive–and start paying for–table service as soon as you sit down. This is when the cost of your coffee suddenly doubles or triples as soon as you sit down. This is why it’s more common to see tourists doing it than Italians.


5. Do not forget a tip.

You can leave a small change, 20 cents is enough. Although it is not required, it can be a nice gesture of appreciation for the server. It’s rude to leave without saying anything.


Ordering Pizza by the Slice

Take-out pizza is one of Italy’s most treasured secrets. It doesn’t matter if you have dinner, because there are many places where you can get pizza to go. This is especially convenient for lunchtime when most pizzerias close. Here’s how it works.


1. Choose what you want.

(Sensing a pattern? You should be aware that although there may be many options on the pizza menu, it is unlikely that anything will be coming out of the oven within the next few minutes.


2. The server will help you choose the right size pizza.

He will also ask how many slices you would like. This is because you pay by weight rather than by the standard-sized slice. He’ll generally help you by placing his knife exactly where you want it to be cut. Tell him that the size is smaller (“piu piccolo”) and larger (“piu grande”), but don’t forget “per favore!”


3. Pay.

You can choose to have the receipt given to you and then go to another register to pay. If it’s smaller, you can take your money there.


4. Take out at the counter

Sitting is possible if there are stools. You can also take your pizza outside. It’s generally more polite and elegant to eat in the pizzeria than on the street.


5. Be sure to say goodbye.

A “Grazie!”, “ArrivederLa!” and/or “Arrivederci!” can go a long ways.