Ristorante, trattoria, osteria, bar, tavola calda, pizzeria, paninoteca, rosticceria, etc.
When you travel to Italy, chances are you’ll come across many of the words above. While you may already be familiar with some – ristorante, trattoria, pizzeria, often seen abroad too – there are others you may have never heard of, or that may mislead you (bar in Italian means something different from what bar indicates in English).
So here’s a brief guide to help you navigate the different types of eating establishments in Italy.
Ristorante (restaurant): this one’s easy, just remember, as a general rule, restaurants tend to be more upscale than trattorie and osterie. They don’t necessarily serve just the local cuisine.
Trattoria: usually family-run and informal, providing traditional, hearty meals at reasonable prices.
Osteria: the focus of the osteria is wine, and only appetizer-style food, or no food at all (or you can bring your own), is served; they’re generally very informal.
Enoteca: in the past few years, there has been a surge in the openings of new enoteche, which could be described as the upscale version of osterie; the enoteca is a wine bar where you go specifically to taste the local wines, and you can usually buy a few bottles too.
Pizzeria: while, obviously, a pizzeria serves pizza, it often also serves a number of primi and secondi (first and second courses) as well, especially when you see the sign ristorante/pizzeria. Some don’t make pizza at lunch; if they do, they’ll advertise it: pizza anche a mezzogiorno.
Pizza al taglio: if you’re on the go, or you really want pizza at lunch and can’t find a pizzeria to serve you any, go for pizza al taglio, pizza by the slice, tiny joints with trays of pre-prepared pizza, which you usually order at the counter and eat standing as there is no room for tables and chairs.
Bar: this is where you go for espresso, not for drinks in the way the word is used in English (Italian bars do serve liquor). Bar in Italian is the equivalent of coffee shop, so you go for breakfast (caffé e croissant being a popular option), for the mid-morning break, or for a quick lunch, as they usually have sandwiches and salads. People also sometimes stop after work for a spritz or pre-dinner drink. Mainly, i bar are where people go for coffee - and to use the bathroom since finding a public toilet in Italy is a difficult endeavor. Another word for bar is caffé.
Paninoteca: panino = sandwich, this is basically a sandwich shop.
Rosticceria: pre-prepared meals, including roasted chickens on a spit, that you buy to go; the quality of some rosticcerie is exceptional (but so are the prices).
Tavola calda: an informal, self-serve eatery where you order pre-prepared food on display in large trays.
Gelateria: the place for gelato lovers.