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Literally Knight Commander, the official title of Commendatore is awarded by decree of the President of Italy to individuals who are given this honour in the Italian Order of Merit known as the Ordine al Merito della Repubblica and other orders of knighthood. The Commendatore (or Knight Commander) rank is a higher award than that of "Ufficiale" (Officer), which in turn is higher than the first level of "Cavaliere" in this order of chivalry which was originally established in Italy by the Royal House of Savoy.

The rank of commendatore is also bestowed in several Italian dynastic orders of the royal houses of Savoy, the Two Sicilies, Parma and Tuscany, as well as the Sovereign Military Order of Malta (in its Order Pro Merito Melitensi bestowed for merit) and Papal orders. Traditionally, the analogous rank for ladies is dama di commenda (dame commander), but today the word commendatrice is sometimes used. The Italian government's orders are exceptional to the international standard in that they do not officially have special ranks or decorations for females (dames).

Commendatore is also the Italian translation for the rank of knight commander in foreign orders, such as the Order of the British Empire. In Italian, the military rank of Commander is comandante.

Il Commendatore is also a character in Mozart's Don Giovanni.

Il Commendatore was commonly used to refer to Enzo Ferrari.

In The Godfather: Part III, Michael Corleone is addressed as Commendatore Michael Corleone on his return to Sicily because he has received a Papal decoration.