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Deciding Where to Eat in Italy – Italian Restaurant Types

Whenever you assume, “let’s go to a restaurant tonight,” what is it that comes to mind? A large eating room with friendly servers bustling about taking orders and bringing patrons steaming dishes of professionally cooked meals? This is often how we classify a restaurant, but a restaurant is certainly not the only place we go to get prepared meals, and that’s especially true in Italy.

Photograph by John Keogh by way of CC, tailored by ParTASTE.

Italy is filled with what we might call, “restaurants,” although they might more appropriately be categorized as, “eating establishments,” since a ristorante is merely a sub category of a bigger group. Should you wandered into a standard trattoria in Italy, you’d discover that it’s somewhat bit less formal than a ristorante, that the meals is extra rustic than what knowledgeable chef would usually prepare and that it is a more true representation of the local delicacies.

piazza_italyPhotograph by Sheeprus by way of CC, adapted by ParTASTE.

Perhaps you aren’t in the mood for a full service meal, however quite a made-to-order sandwich with home-baked bread and recent sliced prosciutto; in this case it is best to head for the paninoteca. Should you really know your stuff or have an area pal to show you the best way, you’ll be able to even hunt down a late night time paninaro, or sandwich stand, that may grill up probably the most scrumptious sausage, cutlet, or mozzarella sandwich you’ve ever had.

tables_italyPhotograph by Niyantha Shekar by way of CC, tailored by ParTASTE.

In this article you’ll study the most typical several types of eateries in Italy. When it comes to consuming, Italians have a spot for each occasion; we advocate you attempt them all to guarantee you get a real grip on the local Italian eating scene.


Conventional osterie in Italy are all but extinct nowadays. A true osteria was a small, bar-like institution back in the time of coal mining and Italian industrialism that had one or two communal tables out there for siting down to eat. Osterie have been locales the place hungry workmen would come by between noon and two o’clock to get a plate of pasta and wine or a sandwich for the street. In some instances, osterie didn’t serve food but permitted you to deliver a packed lunch, drink some wine and socialize. The concept behind a basic osteria was less about comfort and hospitality, and extra down-home and casual, a spot the place you’d pay for some wine or meals, take it or sit down for a fast break, and then get again to working.

osteria_del_sole_bologna_italyOsteria del Sole in Bologna, est. 1465, is among the oldest surviving osterie in all of Italy! Photograph by Scott D. Haddow by way of Artistic Commons

Nowadays, osterie are very a lot back in fashion in Italy, but they bear little or no resemblance to their historic roots. Trendy osterie, have menus, albeit brief ones, that provide very simple food: pastas, grilled meats or fish and wine. These osterie are often full service and you will pay the invoice after eating as opposed to after ordering (so ensure that to ask for it!). If the osteria shouldn’t be full service, you’ll be anticipated to pay at a money register before leaving. Costs are usually average but there are some more upscale osterie that use the phrase osteria in their names to evoke an enthralling, nostalgic type of feeling.


Trattorie are a step up from osterie in terms of class. They extra intently resemble a ristorante in their measurement and elegance of service, they provide a more in depth menu of rustic and conventional meals, but in contrast to ristoranti, trattorie are sometimes family run and specialize in home-cooked food. Like traditional osterie, trattorie can deliver in loads of their cash from take out eating, typically having a deli part with cheeses and sliceable meats to ship residence with shoppers.

antica_trattoria_della_pesa_milanMilan’s Antica Trattoria della Pesa, family owned and operated since 1880. Photograph by Bob Gorman by way of CC, tailored by ParTASTE.

Using the word trattoria has, in current years, grow to be a trendy approach for restaurants, both in major Italian cities and overseas, to make claim to their authenticity; however be advised, the normal trattorie that you simply discover in Italy ought to be more reasonably priced, feel and appear more informal than a typical ristorante and will supply meals that’s considerably totally different from what is served in stylish, high-end eating places calling themselves trattorias in the USA.


Ristorante is the word for restaurant, and it signifies the full-service eating institution that we usually think of when the phrase comes to mind. Ristoranti are prized because the higher-end food businesses in Italy, you gained’t give you the option to name in for take out but you’ll be able to anticipate to sit on the table and pay a coperto to achieve this. You may be served bread, coated beneath the cost of this coperto, and might be brought bottles of carbonated or natural water. A ristorante could have an in depth menu with antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni, and dolci.

ristorante_cesari_bologna_italyBologna’s century-old Ristorante da Cesari. Photograph by Premshree Pillai by way of CC

A meal is at a ristorante is meant to be a relaxed and indulgent affair, so take pleasure in it and don’t go to one in case you are in a hurry. Should you’re on the lookout for lunch in the course of the day, especially in the larger cities, it is best to maintain your eye out for ristoranti that have a menu fisso (pre fixe menu); what you see on the menu fisso board is all that they provide during those hours of service, so if nothing appeals to you, transfer on, but in the event you like what you see, menu fissos supply nice deals. After you end consuming at a ristorante, your examine might be delivered and, as soon as you’re achieved enjoyable and the invoice is paid, you may be on your approach.


A bar in Italy is probably not what you’re considering. An Italian bar has no age restrictions and is analogous to what many would think about a coffee store, though in most of these institutions you possibly can order some bottom shelf liquors, a beer, or a glass of wine. The most important supply of revenue for an Italian bar is the espresso that they serve. Individuals in Italy go to bars in any respect hours of the day, ordering a quick espresso to maintain them going.

italy_bar_breakfast_espressoPhotograph by Darren and Brad by way of CC, tailored by ParTASTE.

In the mornings, bars are stocked with recent baked pastries, often delivered early after which heated up upon request. Round lunchtime you will see that bars stock 5 or 6 totally different sandwiches and typically even a primi in case you’ve come to eat one thing. Bars supply one of the best costs for grab-and-go quality meals and are a really practical choice when you need a fast coffee or snack on your approach to a tightly scheduled appointment or to catch a practice.

Bars are also conveniently situated all over the place the eye can see; it is troublesome to walk a whole block in most Italian cities without passing by one. Identical to any counter-service meals place, you pay your stability both before or simply after your order is handed over. In a bigger bar, you could have to pay at a separate register before you’ll be able to order at the food counter. In this case, in order to get your food, you’ll have to flip in your receipt. For those who aren’t positive what to do, watch what others are doing and just drift, the barista is certain to send you in the correct path in the event you do the flawed factor. One last thing to observe is that if the bar you go to has tables, the worth for a similar order shall be greater for those who sit down as opposed to eating on the bar standing.


The English word for pasticceria is bakery or pastry store. An Italian pasticceria is a kind of cafe that produces and serves sweet and savory pastries, brioches, croissants and the like. Some pasticceria may also have recent baked breads, meats, cheeses, olives, and wine, depending on the dimensions of the area.

PasticceriaPhotograph by Alexander Schimmeck by way of CC

At a pasticceria, it’s possible that you’ll want to place your order at the register, take your receipt and then repeat your order at the counter and switch in your receipt. The casual fashion and fast-moving service at pasticceri make them an excellent place to stop in for a fast breakfast or to decide up every little thing you would wish for a makeshift meal on the go or for picnicking.

Tavola Calda

A tavola calda, or “hot table”, is much less of a sort of eatery, and extra of a further piece of cooking gear at a small food place. A bar with a tavola calda will supply the whole lot a daily Italian bar gives, but may also have a small choice of pre-prepared scorching dishes, often including a number of totally different pastas, risotto, and a meat or fish selection. Choices sometimes don’t exceed three or four gadgets, and the meals is usually served cafeteria-style and typically charged by weight.

SONY DSCPhotograph by Emily Webber by way of CC, tailored by ParTASTE.

As opposed to many common bars, a tavola calda will often have a few small tables to sit down at, both inside or outdoors. Like normal bars, you pay at the register for your meal. A tavola calda usually only provides scorching meals for lunch, nevertheless it’s a terrific choice for a fast and satisfying meal.


Panino imbottito, or just panino in Italian means sandwich, so logically a paninoteca is a spot the place you should purchase sandwiches like panini and tramezzino, bread, chilly cuts and cheese.

paniniPhotograph by Andy Ciordia by way of CC, adapted by ParTASTE.

Paninotecas are very comparable to different institutions akin to pasticcerias, however they specifically deal in recent baked bread and artisanal grains. They quality of components at a a paninoteca is greater than what you’d find in a paninaro, however the choice is extra restricted.


Each as soon as in a while, you will happen upon a food truck lined with open home windows displaying a large number of gadgets. There are several types of these food vans, however the vast majority are paninari, or sandwich carts. Foreigners typically discover it intimidating to eat from certainly one of these vans, but there isn’t any purpose to fear, eating from a paninaro is regular in Italy! Paninari serve scrumptious sandwiches; a sandwich on a bun-roll with three totally different elements, a meat comparable to sausage or hen cutlet, a cheese like mozzarella or provolone, and grilled onions, mushrooms, or marinated eggplant, will prices about €6 or €7. And don’t overlook the sauce! There are often between four or 5 totally different sauces to select in your sandwich or to add on as you please.

street_food_italyPhotograph by Curtis Perry by way of CC, tailored by ParTASTE.

To discover a good paninaro, ask the locals for a suggestion or search for lengthy strains; the recognition of paninari has resulted in loads of low cost knock-offs, and also you need to attempt the actual factor. Many paninari don’t open until late night, hoping to appeal to the younger, dance-club crowds, so when you’ve got a specific paninaro you want to attempt, be sure to verify the opening hours earlier than going out of your approach to find it.


A rosticceria has been categorized as a couple of various things in English, but it’s usually thought-about a deli that specializes in roasted and sliceable meats. A rosticceria is totally different from a butcher in that it provides meat that has already been cooked, prepared to be taken residence. A rosticceria is the place to go if you need to order a specialty roast or simply purchase a professionally roasted hen to deliver residence for the household.

rosticceriaPhotograph by Fiore Silvestro Barbato by way of CC, adapted by ParTASTE.

With the rising reputation of butcher outlets in Italy, rosticcerias are becoming less and less widespread, but it is value it to look for an area rosticceria in remoted Italian cities; they are the place you will discover conventional regional meats that aren’t obtainable anyplace else.


One of many few Italian eateries with an English identify, the autogrill is principally a spot for road-trippers to make a pit cease. Autogrill are conveniently situated every so many miles off of the highways with giant signs you could’t miss. Most autogrills have an included fuel station and a bar the place you will get a slice of pizza or a sandwich. Most of the greater autogrill both have a franchise eatery like McDonalds inside or may have a large choice of ready-made meals or scorching meals that may be ready shortly.

autogrillPhotograph by Jose and Roxanne by way of CC, tailored by ParTASTE.

Autogrills also function edible-souvenir outlets, offering specialty meals which you can solely buy in a given region. Though it seems cheesy, the quality of these foods is definitely commonplace for the areas you’ll be passing and the worth is often not too excessive. Think about this an choice for small presents to convey residence to friends and family, or simply replenish on snacks for the lengthy street ahead!

Taverna / Rifugio

The Italian taverna was once an establishment found in the mountainous regions of Italy where a traveler might cease for the evening and order a hearty meal, drink beer or spiced wine and even stay the night time. Nowadays, the right time period for a lot of these taverne is rifugio, or refuge. The the word taverna is outdated, but can nonetheless be heard in use in some small mountain villages.

Rifugio_Garibaldi_italyRifugio Garibaldi in Lombardy, Italy. Photograph by Fred Inklaar by way of CC, tailored by ParTASTE.

For those who go to the mountains in Italy, it’s essential to be sure to stop and eat in a rifugio. Eating at a rifugio is a good way to get a style of what the excessive north has to supply in terms of its delicacies; you’re probably to encounter dishes which might be so regional they don’t seem to be discovered in another country in the world, and even in most different elements of Italy. Rifugi are full service eateries so your verify might be brought to the desk, however you’re often anticipated to pay at the register before leaving.


An enoteca is a wine bar, or a bar where the only alcohol served is wine. In any given enoteca, you’ll find a generous number of whites and (predominantly) reds from the native area and, depending on the dimensions of the bar, they could additionally stock some imported wines as well as a very small menu of appetizers.

naples_wine_barPhotograph by Angelo DeSantis by way of CC, tailored by ParTASTE.

An enoteca is a pleasant place to get a glass of wine and a snack earlier than dinner, but hold in mind that the majority of them are too small to supply massive apperitivi. Should you stop by an enoteca in the evening, plan on having a substantial dinner afterwards, you’ll be able to’t let yourself go hungry in Italy!

trattoria_sicilyPhotograph by Levente Hernadi by way of CC.

As you’ll be able to see, there are plenty of options when it comes to several types of places to eat in Italy. Although this record consists of probably the most generally encountered Italian eateries, relying on the place you journey, you’re positive to come throughout others which might be more specialised like fiaschetterie, pizzerie, bacari and piadinerie. In case you are anything like us, you propose your holidays and itineraries round what you want to eat. We hope that this record will assist you will have a tremendous time in Italy, filled with scrumptious meals and Italian treats!

What’s your favorite sort of place to eat in Italy?  Tweet us or find us on fb to share your ideas for indulging in local Italian gastronomy!