Living la dolce vita: a glossary of Italian sweets


Can you distinguish Parm-Regg from Romano with your eyes closed? Call it from the door whether you’ll be served a hearty Roman-style pie or a delicate margherita? Well, after all the pasta has been twirled, it’s time to consider a sweet ending to seal the deal on your impending carb coma. Here’s a guide to navigating Italian treats:

Panna cotta: Like jiggly crème brûlée without the glassy caramel top.

Cannoli: A crispy, fried pastry tube filled with sweetened ricotta and mascarpone cheeses, plus maybe some chocolate chips or candied fruits.

Tiramisu: A boozy, rich crowd fave. Delicate ladyfinger cookies soaked in espresso and rum, layered with cocoa powder and sweet ricotta.

Zabaglione: A thick sauce of egg yolks whipped with sweet white wine until fluffy. Usually poured over berries and cake.

Zeppole: Every culture has their fried-dough permutation; this is Italy’s. Airy and tossed in powdered sugar, it’s what every donut hole aspires to be.

Gelato: Denser but contains less butterfat than ice cream. So why do you get half the amount and pay twice the price? Don’t ask questions, just eat.

Granita: A sparkling slush of intensely flavored ice crystals.

Affogato: Espresso poured over gelato. Heaven.

Semifreddo: Literally translated, “half frozen.” A panna cotta that got the cold shoulder.

Neapolitan: That good old slab of vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream, served in family pizza joints everywhere. No gourmet treat, but oh so nostalgic.

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