Bottega di Caccia, Bagni Vignoni, Tuscany, IT (2015-12-16)

What’s in a name: Italian eateries


Traveling through Italy, you will notice a wealth of words describing places to eat. I was wondering what the difference between osteria and trattoria is, and compiled a list of definitions for Italian eateries. 


Ristorante is the easiest one: it’s Italian for “restaurant” — a place where people pay to sit and eat meals that are cooked and served on the premises.


A trattoria is less formal than a ristorante. Traditionally there are no printed menus, the service is casual, wine is more local than high-quality, prices are low. The food is simple, mostly regional/local, and plentiful, sometimes served at large, shared tables (family-style).

Some trattorie sell food in takeaway containers. Which makes sense, since the trattoria and the French word traiteur—meaning a caterer that only makes take-out food–seem awfully alike.


An osteria was originally a place serving wine and simple food; so kind of an even more informal trattoria. Lately, the emphasis has shifted to the food, but menus tend to be short, with an emphasis on local specialties such as pasta, grilled meat or fish, and often served at shared tables. Ideal for a cheap lunch, osterie (the plural in Italian) also cater for after work and evening refreshment.

Some osterie only serve drinks and clients are allowed to bring in their own food; some provide music and other entertainment.


Similar to osterie are bottiglierie, where customers can take a bottle or flask to be re-filled from a barrel.


An enoteca (plural: enoteche) focuses on wines, both in range and quality.


An Italian bar is much more like a café, which also serves any kind of alcohol. People come here from the early morning hours on to drink a coffee or a spirit and eat some kind of snack like pastries (surprisingly, croissants are quite popular in Italy) and sandwiches (panini or tramezzini — and that difference is a whole new story…).


A café is an establishment which primarily serves hot coffee, related coffee beverages, tea, and other hot beverages. Some coffeehouses also serve cold beverages such as iced coffee and iced tea. In addition, pastries and sandwiches are served.

While Italian bars are often small with clients staying only a few minutes and having their drink at the counter, cafés are bigger, offer tables, and occasionally even more comfortable lounge areas.


Pasticcerie are bakeries, selling, besides bread, a wide variety of colorful, elaborate pastries, cakes, and sweets.


The panificio sells bread in all its forms and usually also some pastries.


A bottega is a shop, in some cases a studio, where artists learn their trade. Some bottege sell food, like meats, hams, cheeses, and olives etc.


Do you have anything to add? Thoughts? Opinions? Let me know!

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