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Boston food writers: learn menu Italian

I read yet another restaurant review today in a local Boston daily where the food critic abuses his Italian singulars and plurals. He's not alone: I keep seeing primi for primo, secondi for secondo. And it's not just the writers: we have a local restaurateur who calls his place a bacari. I've seen the plural of pasta as pasti. Please, people: I know you want to sound authentic, but learn some basic grammar if you're going to use Italian in relation to food and restaurants.

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  1. It's the Italian equivilant of Spanglish. I often see "antipasta" instead of antipasto. The plural actually is antipasti.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      I remember a server swearing to me that "antipasto" meant "before the pasta". I wasn't sure whether to laugh or cry.

      1. re: piccola

        Shoot, I thought it was all the stuff that isn't pasta, no?

        1. re: gini

          Antipasto is an Italian appetizer. There are several kinds:
          1. Various dried sausages, hard and soft cheeses, pickled vegetables, cherry tomatoes or slices of larger ones, vinegar peppers, sometimes including a few anchovies, tuna fish in oil....a sprinkle of EVOO and a dash of vinegar with a grinding of black pepper.
          2. Roasted vegetables such as, red peppers, eggplant, onions, anything else chef wants to include.
          Each is served with fresh Italian bread.

          Antipasto has nothing to do with macaroni/pasta!

          1. re: Gio

            Um, it's called having a sense of humor....I was bein' funny.

            1. re: gini

              OOPS.... LOL. I'm too dang gullible.....

    2. As italian it always make me smile see those "italianglish" words..but unfortunately this seems to be a commone use in every part of the world, in Italy you could find such amazing english "terms" around.. sandwich?? oh you mean sendwhich or senduich !!! We got a word "panino" for that..but I bet that use the (wrong) english words must sound so glamour to an italian!!!

      Ps.: We all should learn from French ppl..at least they use their words always!

      1 Reply
      1. re: TheTorinoAgent

        I thought the Italian word for "sandwich" was "sang-wich'. That's the way all of the Italians in my family said it.

      2. That's a pet peeve of mine, not just for Italian but for French, too. What bugs me even more is when restaurants or caf├ęs make up European-sounding words that don't mean anything - ie, the "fruizzi" and "tiazzo" at one coffee chain...

        1. Amen. It's definitely not just the writers. Poor spelling always drives me nuts too; in fact, I wanted to write a piece on menu mangling a few years back but no one would let me. :)
          And then there's the mispronunciation, usually involving that ever-treacherous "ci"/"chi"...

          6 Replies
          1. re: tatamagouche

            Oh, do NOT get me started on misspellings on menus! Drives me nuts as well!

            I started out my career as a secretary, and my mother and both grandmothers were English/speech teachers. So I "no how two tawk and spel." :-) And I still almost *always* find a misspelling on a menu. Even if a copy editor doesn't know the word, as wittlejosh notes below, how hard is it to look it up? Isn't that their job? To make sure that the copy is correct?

            A typo on a single word is one thing; a misspelling throughout the entire document is quite another.

            1. re: LindaWhit

              To this day, my favorite menu mispelling was at the Fallsview Marriott in Niagara Falls, Ontario, where Allstonian and I spent our honeymoon. Several of their entrees were served on a bed of mescaline.

              No wonder so many people try to go over the falls in a barrel! They're all tripping from dinner!

              1. re: BarmyFotheringayPhipps

                LOL!!! That is very close to what I saw on the Finz menu this weekend... http://www.finzrestaurant.com/menus/s... just without the "e" on the end. My friend had the "mesculin mix" in the poached pear salad. I guess since she's a former Deadhead, that was right up her alley.

                ETA - I just Googled "mesculin" and came up with this definition:


                mesclun is a derivation from a French word
                mesculin is a derivation from a Latin word
                both mean mix
                mesclun is the more used version

                You learn something new every day. I think as a restaurant, I'd still use the "mesclun" version. :-)

              2. re: LindaWhit

                Incidentally, that's one of the major reasons I started my own menu translation business. As both a foodie and someone who's rather pedantic about language (blame my parents), it just drove me nuts to see some of the translations I'd find on menus. How about this for a nice example: "Steaming dough pockets with legumes and fungus".

                mmmm, fungus. What they meant, of course, was steamed dumplings with vegetables and mushrooms. Sounds slightly tastier, eh?

                1. re: linguafood

                  LOL! Awww, what's a little fungus among friends? :-)

                  1. re: LindaWhit

                    Especially when you're with a fungi.

            2. My all time pet peeve, and used as much by restaurant owners who write menus, is
              "P-R-O-S-C-U-I-T-T-O" for prosciutto. Itr\ gets me like someone running their fingernails down a blackboard.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ChefJune

                Mmm, I just got reminded of mine: "cannolis."

              2. Sadly I find this a problem for both those writing menus and reviews, regardless of the language. When a restaurant misspells the dishes on their menu or the wait staff can't pronounce or describe the food they are serving it doesn't boost my confidence. When a reviewer or critic does this I have trouble taking the review seriously - I find myself asking whether they are truly familiar with the dish and qualified to speak to its merits. Intellectually, I realize that the chefs and writers have to rely on others (maitres d'hotel, managers, editors, et al.) and, that perhaps I should be more forgiving however, my initial reaction is negative.

                One aside - I don't know why I let it bother me but it always causes me a twinge of pain when I hear TV hosts mispronouncing the foods or dishes they describe - and worse still when they bring us along on travelogues that tend to uphold the worst of ugly american stereotypes - some happily display their ignorance despite an large staff to get them up to speed.

                1 Reply
                1. re: vonwotan

                  We shouldn't forget that there are often copy editors and content editors who are less familiar with food dishes than the reviewer who have a hand in things like spellings, subject-verb agreement, etc. It may not, in fact, be the reviewer's poor knowledge. Often the writer doesn't see the final version that gets published.

                  Of course, it always could be.