Types of Italian Restaurants


Types of Italian Restaurants

At the risk of sounding cliché, food is VERY important for Italians. It’s an opportunity to spend countless hours around the table enjoying delicious dishes. It’s also an excuse to be with family, engage in lively discussions, sign important contracts and commitments, and create stories that turn into lasting memories.

According to the 2021 Michelin Guide, there are more than 370 Michelin Starred restaurants in Italy. This makes it the country with the third most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world! Only Japan and France have more.

So, are you hungry yet? Before you head out to a ristorante, trattoria, osteria, or bar, let’s look at some of the key differences among types of Italian restaurants. These words may not mean what you think in Italy. Because, once again, #culturematters.


It’s best to head to a ristorante when you want a more formal and complete meal served by waitstaff. A ristorante typically has a sophisticated menu, table setting, and prices to match. You might find a famous chef in the kitchen and the meal will likely take a few hours to get through so be prepared to spend some time.


Here’s where to go when you want a complete meal, but in a lower-key environment than a ristorante. While trattorias assume a more modest tone, many refined ristorantes will use the word trattoria in their names. The menu often includes regional dishes that are prepared by following traditional family recipes. While some trattorias may use formal tablecloths, it’s not unusual to see paper placemats here.


In the past, an osteria was an inn where you could both stay AND eat. Today, it’s a casual, local place for drinks where you likely won’t find many tourists. More than a bar though, an osteria usually serves food to accompany the drinking in progress. Go here when you want to enjoy some food with your wine, not wine with your food.


If you take a modest trattoria or osteria, and add a small, adjoining accommodation, you get a locanda!


A taverna used to be a lower quality trattoria full of unsavory types. Today, a tavernais a traditional place to go for some drinks and snacks.


The enoteca is for drinking wine. So, you usually won’t find other kinds of alcohol served here. You will, however, be able to order some small bites. The enoteca may also be a wine shop filled with local bottles to taste and purchase.


You guessed it! A pizzeria is a place where pizza is the main star of the menu. However, you can also find different kinds of pasta or some fried dishes like french fries and/or seafood (grigliata mista).

Bar / Pasticceria

You might be surprised to learn that this bar is where you can get your coffee and pastry in the morning! Fast forward a few hours and you’ll find wine and cocktails accompanied by various types of snacks. In Italy, the time before a main meal is known as “aperitivo” and it’s common to spend it in a bar or pasticceria.


A panificio is a “bakery” where you can find a quick bite such as focaccia or even pizza by the slice.




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