Remember those awkward moments when you turned away a waiter for the third time because you were still studying the menu? The panic worsens when you don’t know any of the names on the menu, especially at Italian restaurants. Here is a rundown of the 7 most common Italian dishes so you know what to expect when the meal lands on the table.

1. Scampi


Photo courtesy of Flickr user Michael Fletcher

The name definitely sounds like something that belongs on an Italian restaurant menu — scampi refers to large prawns, typically cooked with garlic and butter. If you are not a seafood or garlic person, skip on the scampi.

2. Parmigiana


Photo courtesy of Flickr user Alpha

Most Italian menus seem to have the word parmigiana, but what does it mean? Parmigiana is a fancy way of saying Parmesan — parmigiana refers to dishes served with Parmesan cheese. Perfect for a cheesy meal.

3. Marsala


Photo courtesy of Flickr user Paul Kobayashi

You’re not alone if you’ve mixed up marsala with tikka masala. Turns out that tikka masala and marsala are entirely different dishes. Marsala dishes are cooked with marsala wine, which is commonly used in Italian cuisine. The wine is reduced with onions and mushrooms, creating a tangy sauce that is poured over pasta. Look for the marsala dishes if you’re a fan of aromatic mushroom flavors.

4. Antipasto


Photo courtesy of Flickr user Amanda Quintana Bowles

Anti what? Antipasto sounds like a villain’s name, but the “anti” in this context comes from the Latin term “ante” which means “before.” Pasto comes from the Latin word “pastus” which means meal, so the term literally means “before meal.” Antipasto is an assortment of foods such as olives and sliced bread served as appetizers. Choose your favorite assortment to have a fancy start to your meal.

5. Piccata


Photo courtesy of Flickr user alanagkelly

Piccata is a method of cooking with thinly sliced meat in a buttery lemon sauce. If you like your meat sauced, scan the menu for the word piccata — chicken piccata, veal piccata, pork piccata, or whatever floats your boat.

6. Focaccia


Photo courtesy of Flickr user Mattie Hagedorn

Focaccia is frequently seen on Italian menus and sandwich shops. If you order focaccia, you will typically get flatbread seasoned with olive oil and herbs. Focaccia looks and tastes a lot like pizza, so the dish will feel familiar to you, despite its foreign name.

7. Ragu


Photo courtesy of Flickr user Alpha

You may often spot the word “ragu” in the sauce section of grocery markets. Ragu is a sauce made with tomato puree, ground meat, onion, and red wine. Go for the ragu dishes if you want a classic tomato-base Italian dish.

Deciding on what to order should now be a lot simpler!  The menu at an Italian restaurant doesn’t have to seem like a foreign language book. Own the dishes you order with your newfound foodie knowledge.