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Where to Eat in Italy | Print |  E-mail
Written by Larry Aiello   
Thursday, 29 April 2010 00:00

Ever wonder where to eat in Italy?

A Gelateria in ItalyIt is practically impossible to have a bad meal in Italy. You can find good food in the most expensive of restaurants, to a little “tavola calda” inside a gas station. There are so many different types of eating establishments in Italy, and sometimes the distinction is very subtle, and can vary from town to town, and region to region. But with so many places to eat, how do you know which type of establishment is best for you and your party?

Here is a listing of the different eating establishments and where to eat in Italy (in alphabetical order):

  • Autogrill - Simple restaurant usually off an interstate. More of a fast-food option. These are usually connected to a gas station.
  • Bar - These are very common in Italy. They usually serve sandwiches (or “panini”), pastries, coffee, liquers, and sometimes warm dishes (“tavola calda”). You pay first at the “cassa” and then order and eat at the standing bar. A great place to get an espresso or cappucino in the morning. Seated service will usually cost you a little more.
  • Caffe' - Coffee Shop...usually only serves breakfast or other quick snacks.
  • Enoteca - A place where you can drink wines. You can usually buy the whole bottle or consume by the glass. Sometimes this can be more of a trendy place, depending on the city.
  • Gelateria - A shop that sells the famous Italian gelato and variations (see picture above left) such as a cone (“cono”) or cup (“coppa”). Gelato is Italy's version of ice cream, but only better! A Gelateria sometimes may be combined with a bar.
  • Locanda - Simple restaurant usually serving local specialties and drinks. Originally, this meant a country inn, but in certain cities, especially Venice, this can be more of an upscale restaurant.
  • Osteria - Simple restaurant usually serving local specialties and drinks. In Rome or Milan, these can be more of a trendy wine bar.
  • Pasticceria - Pastry shop. Dieters beware! They often have café tables and have desserts such as cannoli, tiramisu, etc. They also usually serve coffee. These can also sometimes be connected to a bar (see above).
  • Pizzeria - Good old-fashioned pizza parlour with other simple dishes. They usually have only a few tables for sitting, as they tend to be a place for take-out. The pizzas are usually cooked in a wood-fired oven (pic below).
  • Ristorante - An Italian restaurant - the most sophisticated dining experience usually having the most selection of dishes and the finest wine. They tend to be more upscale than a trattoria. And also the most expensive of all the eating establishments in Italy, although you can find many reasonably-priced restaurants all over Italy. If you are entertaining a client, then you would take them to a restaurant. In touristic areas, you will find many restaurants.
  • Rosticceria - Serving roasted, or grilled meats, fish, chicken, etc. Few will have tables, as this is mostly a take-out place.
  • Tavola calda - Stand-up snack bar serving hot meals (best for a mid-morning snack), more of a working-man's place to eat lunch. Literally, it means hot-table, as it is often a caffeteria-style establishment.
  • Taverna - A modest trattoria (see below).
  • Trattoria - Medium priced restaurant. This is usually where you will find the best bargains. If you were to ask a local where to go dine, they would usually recommend a trattoria. The menus tend to be more limited than a restaurant. These tend to be more of a casual place to eat in Italy, and more of a family-run place.

If you are still confused, many will post their menus outside. It is best to always take a peek at the menu before you venture inside. If it is not exactly what you are looking for, then keep looking, because there is always a good place to eat in Italy just around the corner!


A pizza-maker in Italy at a pizzeria.





+1 #2 addicted2italy 2012-03-01 11:40
hi Sanders,
Thanks for posting. You are correct, there are so many options in Italy, you can't go wrong.

Have a great day!
+2 #1 Sanders B 2012-03-01 02:12
Wow so many different concepts on food and eating, this is really interesting, there is a place for everything. I do enjoy having a cup of coffee and dessert in the afternoon so a Pasticceria or a Cafe will be perfect for me.

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