Difference between trattoria, osteria, ristorante and enoteca.

While travelling in Tuscany you will come across different types of bars and restaurants, namely trattorias, ristorantes, osterias and enotecas and you might wonder what the differences are? The differences today don’t mean as much as in the past as many trattorias and even restaurants call themselves “osteria” and vice versa.

The trattorias are traditionally family owned, casual, rustic neighbourhood restaurants found throughout all of Italy that serve fresh, unassuming, conventional local food.

“Ristorante” should mean a full service restaurant, and there should according to history be a host or hostess to seat you. The wait staff, including a sommelier, should be experienced with food and wine as well as with proper service etiquette. You should expect complete or à la carte offerings presented on a printed menu with fixed prices. Your food should be prepared by professional kitchen staff and should represent selections from several ordered courses. However this is not always the reality any longer, so don’t expect that the food is necessarily better or more sophisticated at ristorantes.

Osterias are wine bars that have evolved to serve simple meals. Traditionally, they are simpler than trattorias and usually have no menu. The offering changes daily, according to the market and two or three courses are offered for a fixed price, including wine.

Traditionally, enotecas served no food; they were just a place to go and drink wine. Italians on the whole are not big drinkers, so it is, or was, rare to find a “bar” or “tavern” that people in the UK and US are used to seeing. People would stop into an enoteca for a glass of wine on the way to another spot for a full meal. Now, most enoteca serve light appetizers.

The image above is from the hotel Le Fontanelle.

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