If you’ve ever wanted to go into a macelleria, or butcher shop, in Italy, but were intimidated by the assortment of meats or held back by a lack of vocabulary, I’ve got you covered.
Going to the butcher has become a regular part of my everyday life in Italy, thanks to learning how to properly shop there from Italian friends.
For the most part, I find that the meat is cheaper, better quality and fresher than at the grocery store.
I also like that I can ask what is new, how to cook items and buy product sliced or sized to my preference.
If you’re heading to the butcher for the first time, follow the steps below for a smooth experience.
When you enter:
First, check for an automated number machine.
If they are calling numbers, take a number and wait your turn.
It is expected that you will decide what you want while waiting, so be ready when your number is called.
When your number is called or it is your turn:
Butchers are neighborhood shops, so it’s important to be polite.
Greet the butcher with an appropriate hello, like “buongiorno” before launching into your order.
When ordering it is customary to say the item along with the amount you want.
Here are some must know words and phrases for placing your order:
— Vorrei… – I would like…
— Poi? – Anything else?
— Basta. – That’s enough.
— Come si può cucinare…? – How can…be cooked?
— Le cosce – Thighs
— Le ali – Wings
— Il petto di pollo – Chicken breast
— Il fegato – Liver
— Il vitello – Veal
— Il tacchino – Turkey
— Il gallo – Rooster (yes they eat roosters, the comb is considered a delicacy)
— La bistecca – T-bone steak
— La Chianina – A famous type of Tuscan cow, they are big, white, grass fed, and delicious
— Il bovino – Adult cow (this word is often used for things like ground beef)
— Il manzo – Beef
— L’agnello – Lamb
— Disossata – Deboned (example: Petti di tacchino disossati, or “deboned turkey breasts)
— Ossa – Bone
— Fetta – Slice
— Fettina – Thin slice
— Ripiena – Stuffed (delicious examples include: stuffed zucchine in the summer – filled with meat, cheese and breadcrumbs or chicken sliced thin then stuffed with cheese and herbs and tied together)
— Macinato/a – Ground
— Un etto – 1/10th of a kilo, aka 100 grams. 1kg =2.2 lb so 1/10 of 2.2 is just barely under 1/4lb
— Due/tre/etc etti – Plural of etto, for more than 100 grams
— Grammi – Grams, you can also order in grams instead of saying etti
Curious how these words come together when you’re actually there? Here is an example of what the entire process might look like.
“Buongiorno Leonardo! Oggi vorrei due etti di petti di pollo.” – “Good morning Leonardo! Today I would like two hundred grams of chicken breasts.”
If I want them sliced thin, I can ask for them “a fette or a fettine”.
When he is done, he usually says, “poi?” (or “altro?” or “vuole dell’altro?”) meaning, “anything else?”
If I see something new, I might say, “Come si possono cucinare le zucchine ripiene?” How do you cook the stuffed zucchini?”
After he explains, I can add them to my order or move on to something else.
I continue this way, asking about or ordering just one or two items at a time, until I am done and I give a hearty, “basta, grazie” or “that’s enough, thanks”.
Have you ever ordered at a macelleria? How did you do? Do you have any other must know words to add?