Shopping for food: diy lunches

Published on:  | Last updated: 23 January 2017

The mercato in Firenze

The mercato in Firenze

Many super­market deli counters are happy to make you a panino, but you can of course also buy the ingredients and make your own.

Bread is often sold by weight in Italy - a mezzo kilo (half kilo will get you half a medium-sized loaf. A useful word to know is la meta - half so you can point at a likely looking piece of bread and ask for half of it. If you want less than half a kilo it’s probably easiest to ask for a panino. You can find wholemeal bread - ‘pane integrale’.

Deli counters in super­markets normally have a ticket system. A chi tocca? means who’s turn is it?

If you are ordering cooked meats, cheese etc at the deli counter a useful word is un etto - a hundred grams (about a quarter pound). Due etti - 200 grams. So - due etti di prosciutto crudo (or cotto - cooked)- due etti di formaggio.

If you don’t know what something is called you can ask for un etto di questo/quello (a hundred grams of this/that) - or un po (a little) or un pezzo.


Sign for porchetta cooked in a wood-burning oven

The range of meats includes:

  • prosciutto crudo/cotto
  • bresciola
  • salami
  • mortadella

Both salami and formaggio can be morbido (mild) or piccante (strong or spicy).

In the north you might also come across speck - ham that has been salted and air-dried. And many deli counters also sell roast beef (which is called, helpfully, roast beef).

After serving the first item the assistant will ask e poi? or altro? (or something similar) meaning ‘anything else?’. If you’ve go everything you want just say basta così, grazie.

In super­markets you can often also find prepackaged meat and cheese. A well as things like tuna.

Vegetables and fruit

Very very few Italian super­markets weigh fruit and veget­ables at the checkout. Generally you have to weigh it yourself (make a note of the number for the product and then tap it in on the scale). Forgetting to do this is probably the number one ‘gotcha’ for foreigners in Italy. 

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