Fruits and Veggies — Produce sections offer a vast variety at low prices. The trick is knowing that you need to bag, weigh and tag the items yourself. Picture coded electronic scales are located in the produce area. Press the image on the scale that matches your selection and simply affix the sticker that pops out on the bag.
Deli Counter — The cold cuts, cheeses and other delicacies defy description. Start by taking a number and closely watching the monitor so as not to get skipped over if you are not familiar with every Italian number from 1 to 100. When it does come up you may want to say eccomi (here I am) to get the person's attention. Cold cuts are sliced wafer thin and individually placed on waxed paper sheets so they don’t stick to each other. Italians use the metric system so the word to learn is Etto, which means a tenth of a kilo. A kilo is 2.2 pounds. Un etto is just shy of a quarter of a pound. To get closer to half a pound ask for due etti. If it's an abundant pound you want, just say mezzo kilo (half a kilo). When asking for a wedge of cheese, say una fetta di... taleggio, fontina, gorgonzola or point at whatever you can’t pronounce and say quello. Typically, the person will demonstrate the size of the wedge they are planning to cut. By nodding yes or by spreading or closing your thumb and forefinger you can signify the amount.
Prosciutto — The word literally means ham. In the US, we use this word to denote the cured version. If you want to order this type of ham in Italy, then ask for crudo. If you want it less salty say: dolce or sweet. Otherwise, simply point and say: quello (that one). There are dozens of varieties including nostrano which is the local version of whatever is being sold. Lovers of boiled ham should ask for cotto. Indicate the one you like or say quello in offerta which means: give me the one that is on sale.
Olives & Appetizers — Point at the item and ask for un vasetto meaning small container. The counterperson will show you a plastic container. Indicate again with your fingers or hands if you want it larger or smaller.
E poi? — This question means: what else? When you are done say basta cosi, grazie (that’s enough, thanks). The person will usually wrap all of your items into one package and affix the label.
Dairy Section — Sliced cheese only exists in prepackaged versions in the dairy chest. You can also find pre-packaged cold cuts here but the deli stuff tastes better. Let’s not kid each other, all of the prepackaged items at the dairy counter taste 100 times better than anything bought outside of Italy. Fresh milk called latte fresco is at dairy chest; however, most Italians drink UHT (ultra heat treated) milk which only requires refrigeration once opened. You can find it in the aisles. Latte Scremato is skimmed milk, Latte Parzialmente Scremato is low fat milk, Latte Intero is whole milk and Panna is heavy whipping cream.
Water — Italians drink plenty of acqua minerale (mineral water) often sold in six- or 12-packs. Look for the word Naturale if you want still water or the word Frizzante if you want it sparkling.
Bread — If you want sliced bread for toasting, the supermarket is where to find it. Some supermarkets have great bakeries. The aroma and number of people lining up to buy loaves and pastries are good indicators as to whether you should pick some up here or move on to a proper bakery. Un kilo di pane is just over two pounds. Mezzo kilo is closer to a pound.
Butter — Those who speak Spanish should not be afraid to buy some burro. It means butter in Italian and there is no connection to donkeys.
Basta cosi, grazie!