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Capisco che la parola italiana "torta" è l'equivalente dell'inglese "cake" e "pie".

Se un menù indica "torta di mele, come faccio a sapere se è come la prima o la seconda immagine?

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    Welcome to Italian.SE!
    – Charo
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 7:15
  • @DaG Since you seem interested in keeping the cooking tag, would you please add some description thereof?
    – egreg
    Commented Mar 9 at 18:21
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    Right. I've just slightly modified someone else's proposal about it.
    – DaG
    Commented Mar 9 at 19:26

2 Answers 2

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I must admit that, as an Italian, I am not sure about the difference between “cake” and “pie” (apart from specific cases). In fact, I find the two images quite similar and both look like particular kinds of torte, while there are other torte that are much more different than those two differ between them.

It so happens that different languages partition concepts in different ways.1 I understand that for an English speaker “cakes” and “pies” are clearly different concepts, while they are all torte for an Italian, just like Italian scimmia means both “monkey” and “ape”. There are lots of examples the other way around too, of course. For instance, an English “cup” corresponds at least to the distinct Italian words and notions of tazza, tazzina, coppa and sometimes to bicchiere too; or take “helmet”, which can correspond in Italian to elmo, elmetto or casco, and so on. (And I don't even mention, say, the several Italian words for what abroad one would simply call pasta.)

To go back to torte, of course there are in Italian several names for specific torte: crostata, pastiera, millefoglie, sbrisolona...

1 Here we are skirting the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis.

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    Come aggiunta culinaria, si può dire che in italiano non c’è una traduzione per “apple pie”, che conserva il suo nome. L’apple pie ha un ripieno disposto tra due strati di pasta. Non è uno strudel, in cui il ripieno è avvolto in un unico strato di pasta. La torta di mele è tipicamente quella della prima foto, che si prepara facendo un impasto a cui si aggiunge il lievito.
    – Benedetta
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 13:55
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    @DaG This has been a funny ongoing conversation with my me and my tutor. Whenever I make a pie, I have to awkwardly try to explain what it is, even knowing that it will translate as "cake" in the end. Crostata is very close, but from what I've read they tend to be open, whereas a lot of pies in America are closed (the open pies are called tarts, or sometimes crisps, which seems to be a more accurate translation of crostata).
    – Marco
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 16:02
  • +1 for sbrisolona (and the excellent answer, of course) :)
    – Denis Nardin
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 20:30
  • I'm going to comment in English from now on, as I'm much more comfortable with it. @DaG: I agree that the pictures aren't as distinct as I would have liked. I chose 'apple' as a flavour rather arbitrarily and I searched on "Italian apple pie" and "Italian apple cake" for examples. For me (and I believe most native speakers of English) the distinction is that "cake" is rather like sweetened bread, whereas "pie" is characterized by a layer of pastry with a sweet filling, optionally topped by another layer of pastry.
    – Wilson F
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 21:43
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    @WilsonF For a similar distinction, Americans consider cookies and biscuits two different things. For the life of me in all the five years I spent there I couldn't understand the difference (and I spent a significant portion of departmental teatimes discussing it) . Italian simply does not consider cake and (sweet) pie different things. They are just declinations among infinite other possible declinations of the concept of torta. There isn't a special name for them, nor a reason to invent one.
    – Denis Nardin
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 21:55
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Non sono un cuoco ma credo che, in linea di massima, con "cake" possiamo identificare quello che in italiano chiamiamo "torta" (es: millefoglie, mimosa, ecc), invece un "pie" assomiglia di più a quella che noi chiamiamo "crostata". Inoltre "pie" mi sembra più adatto a definire i tortini salati.

Fonte: provate a scrivere "cake torta" e "pie torta" su Google Immagini e date un'occhiata ai risultati ;)


I'm not a cook but speaking generally with "cake" we can identify what in Italian is called "torta". A "pie" instead is more similar to what we call "crostata". Also I think "pie" can describe better a don't know how to translate this thing.

Source: try searching "cake torta" and "pie torta" on Google Images and check the results ;)

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  • I see your point, but a crostata has almost always a decoration of shortcrust (most often a kind of lattice), which I'm not sure is always the case of a pie. And pies, as you mention, may be savoury as well as sweet, while a crostata is alway sweet, generally with jam or ricotta cheese.
    – DaG
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 16:46
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    And, sorry for the nitpicking: about «"pie" can describe better...», the question was about the meaning of torta in English, not of pie in Italian. :) In other words, your answer and the mention of the two image searches are interesting, but more useful to understand the difference between “cake” and “pie” (which are OT here and well known to the OP) than how to disambiguate torta.
    – DaG
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 16:50
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    The Ligurian “torta pasqualina” would definitely qualify as “pie” in English.
    – egreg
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 17:43
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    @egreg This got me thinking. Torta Pasqualina reminds me of Pizza Rustica (don't know if that's the correct term, but that's what my aunt called it), which made me realize that a pizza is a sort of flat pie. In that it has a "filling" on a bread crust. A calzone would be the analogous closed-shell-pie. This could also possibly explain why, in English, a whole pizza is referred to as a "pie", and might be one of the reasons for this subtle language-specific difference.
    – Marco
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 18:54
  • @Jack_Kirby I think the closest English translation of tortino salato would be a savory pie. But I'd need someone to confirm that as I'm not first-hand familiar with that class of dishes.
    – Marco
    Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 20:17

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