Traveler's Test

Italy: What’s the difference between trattoria, ristorante, osteria?

Italy: What’s the difference between trattoria, ristorante, osteria?

10 sunrise ideas to start the day with a smile
All the Noise of It: Living in a Tuscan Hilltown – excerpt from the book
10 quotes about Portugal that explain why everyone loves it

Brush up on your Italian and delve into the subtleties of Italian dining by discovering the (sometimes slight) differences between the various food venues you will find in the country. Here are the most common eateries found in Italy and what to expect there:


A ristorante (or a restaurant) is the highest-class food venue in Italy, where you can expect:

  • professional waiters and a sommelier to suggest a good wine

  • exquisite atmosphere

  • good food and maybe a touch of gourmet

  • higher prices


Trattoria is the next less formal option if you are hungry. You can expect:

  • family-owned business

  • personal attitude from the waiters (if there are any). More often than not the service staff are friendly, rather than sticking to super-professional standards

  • informal but cozy setting

  • traditional food and family recipes


Osteria used to signify a place where men could buy wine and play cards, while they brought their food from home. In the past, an osteria would often also function as an inn, where long-distance travelers could spend the night in an unpretentious room. Nowadays, from an osteria you can expect:

  • a rural or wine-themed atmosphere

  • simple dishes, usually prepared solely as finger food to be enjoyed with the wine.

  • seasonal food and different dishes according to the fresh ingredients available at the market

Tavola calda

Tavola calda (literally translated as hot table) is the improved Italian version of fast food:

  • very simple, home-cooked food

  • eatery similar to a fast food venue

  • lowest prices of all the above mentioned

Pin it for later: