When you think of different types of dining establishments, most fall into one of two categories-sit down or take out, fine dining or casual, restaurants in cafes.
But in Italy, they seem to have a dizzying number of names for places that, ostensibly, all seem like sit down restaurants: trattoria, ristorante, osteria, enoteca, and the list goes on.
When you’re out in Italy, how do you know what you’re getting? There are basically five grades of sit-down restaurant, two types of wine bars, and two main types of take-out place.
- Ristorante – This is the top grade of Italian dining establishments, with conscientious service, fine dining plating and dishes, and often a well-known chef.
- Trattoria – Trattorias are wonderful casual places to eat, whether for a pre-set lunch menu or a dinner out. They focus on typical Italian fare, without the fusion flare you may see in ristorantes.
- Osteria – Osterias are much like trattorias, but a bit more casual with a focus on regional specialties.
- Tavola Calda – In a tavola calda, there is typically no table service. You choose your food from a cafeteria style serving set up. These are primarily in Florence.
- Pizzeria – In Italy, pizzarias are sit-down restaurants that predominantly serve pizza with wine, a variety of salads, and a few pasta selections.
- Enoteca – For a more formal wine tasting experience in line with American wine bars, head to an enoteca. Today, many are high-design and high-tech, though the food options are typically limited.
- Taverna – Tavernas are more old-fashioned, like an Italian version of a British pub, with wine instead of beer. Food is very traditional, simple fare.
- Pizza a taglio – For a slice of pizza on the run, look for a pizza a taglio (literally: by the slice). There may be limited seating, but squares of pizza, calzones, and occasionally some desserts are packaged up to take away.
- Rosticceria – Unlike pizza a taglio places, which expect people to be eating their food on the go, rosticcerias typically serve hot food, primarily meat and roast vegetable dishes, to take and eat at home. If you’re looking for an entire chicken, this is the place.