How do you say “bon appetit” in Italian?


Dive into the delicious world of dining etiquette with our guide on how to say “bon appetit” in Italian! Learn the proper phrases for any meal and the polite way to respond when someone wishes you a good appetite. 🍝

  • Understanding “Bon Appetit”: The phrase bon appétit is a French way of wishing someone a good meal, similar to “enjoy your meal” in English.
  • Italian Etiquette: In Italy, saying buon appetito is common among friends and family, but it’s a no-go in formal settings. Stick to meal-specific wishes like buon pranzo (have a nice lunch) or buona cena (have a nice dinner).
  • Formal Alternatives: Offer a classy si serva pure (please suit yourself) to encourage guests to enjoy their meal without breaking any etiquette rules.
  • Responding to “Buon Appetito”: A simple grazie (thank you) will do, but if you’re feeling friendly, add an altrettanto (you too) for good measure.
  • Embrace the Culture: When in Italy, do as the Italians do! Use buon appetito casually with pals, but remember to switch it up for more formal munching. 🇮🇹

My thoughts

What does “bon appetit” mean?

You can easily guess that this phrase has something to do with food and eating.

The literal translation of “bon appétit (or bon appetit, as many people write it in English) is “good appetite”.

It is a way to say that you wish to eat much and well with the people you’re with.

In other words, it’s the French equivalent of “enjoy your meal.

Every language has its own way of saying that, but how does it sound in the language of the nation that gave the world lasagna and pizza?

Here’s how to say “enjoy your meal” in Italian

The typical Italian phrase to say “enjoy your meal” is buon appetito.

It’s easy to remember because it sounds a lot like bon appetit. After all, Italian and French are both neo-Latin languages, and these similarities are not at all uncommon.

It seems that its origins derive from a medieval tradition.

It is said that, in the past, rich people used to invite their servants once a year for lunch and wished them “bon appetit” as a way of saying: “Today you can eat more than usual, enjoy“.

Whether it’s true or not, today, most Italians use it at every meal (even with their own family members) as a simple good wish.

So, if an Italian friend of yours invites you home to eat, you can easily integrate by wishing everyone buon appetito.

But if you find yourself in a more formal situation, be careful.

Like many of the things we usually do with pleasure, saying buon appetito is forbidden by etiquette. So, how do you say “bon appetit” in Italian if you’re not sitting with relatives or friends?

Formal alternatives

On formal occasions, the easiest solution is to replace appetito with the name of the meal you’re about to eat.

  • buon pranzo = “have a nice lunch”;
  • buona cena = “have a nice dinner”;

If you’re having someone over, you can also say:

  • si serva pure if there’s only one person. If you two are well acquainted and vi date del tuyou can also say: “serviti pure“. 
  • servitevi pure if you’re hosting more people;

Both these phrases mean “please suit yourself”. They are a very formal way to tell your guests to enjoy their meal and act as if they were at home.

How do you reply to “buon appetito”?

The most standard way to reply to buon appetito in Italian is to say thank you with a simple grazie.

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Alternatively, you can also say altrettanto, which means: “you too”. And if you’re feeling particularly chatty, you can use both.

Buon appetito! – Grazie, altrettanto!

Enjoy your meal! – Thanks, you too!

Enjoy your meal

Now you know how to say bon appetit in Italian, and you also know what it means in English.

If you are curious about Italian and want to learn new common expressions to sound more like a native speaker, remember to check this blog every week.

I often write about many peculiar words and phrases that you can learn to improve your fluency.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go eat a nice panino. Buon appetito a me!

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How do you respond to Buon appetito?

Naturally, you can reply with "Buon appetito," but you can also use the equivalent of the same to you, "Grazie, altrettanto."

What do Italians say when food is good?

When referring to food, the word "ottimo" (ottima, ottimi, or ottime) suggests that the food is "very good" or "excellent."

What do Italians say before a meal?

"Buon appetito" is an Italian phrase used before and during meals. It means "Enjoy your meal".

Italian word of the day
Hai voglia di fare una passeggiata?
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