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What is the difference between restaurants in Italy?

Osteria? Trattoria? Tavern? After all, what is the difference between restaurants in Italy? I'll tell you everything now!

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What is the difference between restaurants in Italy?

Many people ask me what is the difference between Italian restaurants, after all, in Italy we find denominations like osteria, trattoria, taverna, among others! Today, to answer all questions about these differences, I bring you a super special post: what is the difference between restaurants in Italy? Ready? Let’s go! Here at  Your Travel to Italy with Ana Patricia you make the trip of your dreams !!! ALSO: see our  “Accommodation in Italy – Tips for your holidays!”


Italy is famous all over the world, also, for its gastronomy. With fantastic restaurants spread across the peninsula, Italy offers us several options of very different types of restaurants such as osteria, trattoria, taverna, award-winner, non-award-winner and so on. Well, but if I ask you the difference between them, do you know how to answer me? To end all doubts about the differences between restaurants in Italy, today we will explain everything about the difference between restaurants in Italy. Although the difference between restaurants is very subtle, they do exist and it is good to know what they are. The difference between restaurants starts already in their historical origins and to understand this difference today, we need to know how they came about. Click here for Tips on Eating & Drinking in Italy!

1) What is the difference between restaurants in Italy? OSTERIA

Let’s start with Osteria, which in English is translated as a tavern – but we’ll understand it better later. The word osteria derives from ‘hospes’ and means hospitality. These places started to appear in the Medieval Era and were found along the roads and close to shops.

The purpose of osteria was to serve as a resting spot, a place to eat cold cuts and cheeses and, soon, it became a popular place for social gatherings. A stop over there also meant that you would find something very appreciated by everyone: wine, and, for travelers: accommodation to rest before resuming travel and hot meals – although serving meals was not the ‘strenght’ of the place. Over time, however, serving heartier meals became almost the rule, as many sought the place to have their meals during work break or at a stop during a trip.


  • If you want to live an originally medieval experience, visit Osteria del Sole – in operation since 1465 – in Bologna, in the Emilia Romagna region. There they still work like their ancestors: wine, snacks, some simple meals, not to mention that and the environment is delightful! Reservation is required!

2) What is the difference between restaurants in Italy? TRATTORIA

And the famous trattoria? The trattoria presents us with characteristics that differentiate it both from restaurants and from osteria. The trattoria, essentially, is a cheap place and offers delicious, traditional local dishes, because they are made the old-fashioned way! It is the type of restaurant most sought after by the locals and it is not difficult to attract tourists either. They are usually restaurants that pass from generation to generation, that is, they are usually family businesses.

The wines also stand out, because, normally, they are also made there. For those looking for an authentic gastronomic experience, it is the ideal place! What draws the most attention in trattorias is, precisely, the simplicity of everything! The menu is small, the decor is charming and rustic, the wine is delicious and the service is very friendly. Trattorias choose to use local products and many of them use products and ingredients made by themselves: cold cuts, preserves, vegetables, etc.

3) What is the difference between restaurants in Italy? TAVERN

And the taverns? The taverns are places where the customer finds simple and quick things to eat accompanied by a good wine, which is the strenght of the place. Some taverns serve full meals, cold cuts board, snacks and others, but it is a quite short menu, and everything is very simple, with a lot of flavor and with a divine wine!

4) What is the difference between restaurants in Italy? RESTAURANTS

What about the restaurants? This is the most widespread category in the world. Well, unlike osteria restaurants and trattorias, restaurants do not ‘stick’ to local traditions or specialties. Usually they offer dishes of different types of food, from different regions and / or countries; Of course, there are also restaurants specializing in, for example, beef or fish. The restaurants present a more formal space, carefully decorated, wine list, more ‘classic’ service and more ‘refined’ dishes.

Of course, it is not a rule, but these are the most ‘typical’ characteristics of a restaurant itself. For all these ‘details’, the value is a little bit higher. The menu usually has more refined dishes, sometimes even experimental, therefore, linked to traditional local recipes. It doesn’t mean that a place, if defined as a “restaurant”, must necessarily be more expensive than a trattoria, O.K.? On the other hand, some restaurants, perhaps more renowned, are not always limited to modest prices! How about finding out which are the 10 best restaurants in Italy? Click here to find out!


5) What is the difference between restaurants in Italy? WINE BAR

What about the wine bar? Wine bars are places that hardly serve meals. They are very popular in wine-producing places, such as Tuscany, for example. Wine bars, usually, offer wine tastings and some offer (next to the wines) cold cuts, sweet, among others, so that the client understands which is the best pairing that the wine offers. Also, read about the Tuscan wine route!

BONUS: What about Michelin-starred restaurants?

A little about the Michelin Guide

Well, the Michelin Guide is seen by many experts as the Holy Bible of restaurants! It was first published in 1900 and its aim was simply to point travelers to good places to eat. All Michelin judges specialize in restaurants and hospitality, and visit restaurants anonymously, acting like a customer like any other, without raising any suspicions, that is: anyone who works at the restaurant has no idea that they are serving one of the guide’s judges.

The general criteria

The general criteria followed by the judges are top secret, however, we know some of the evaluated criteria: the quality of the product; combination of flavors and culinary techniques used to prepare the dish; the personality of the chef in his kitchen and how he reflects this in the dish served; cost-benefit and uniformity during the various visits. No! They don’t just pay one visit, they pay several!

The star system began to be adopted in 1933 and works as follows:

  • One star: very good cuisine in its category;
  • Two stars: excellent cuisine; it’s worth visiting;
  • Three stars: excellent cuisine, a must!

Bib Gourmand Award

In 1997, Michelin launched the Bib Gourmand award, which describes the place as “does not yet have a star”, but serves as a subtle ‘notification’ that, in the future, the place may take its star. The Bib Gourmand category defines a place as “friendly serving good food at a fair price”.

Good to know

  • A restaurant does not have to be super renowned to receive three, two, or one Michelin star: they really focus on food!

What is the best restaurant in Italy?

Watch this video and learn: What is the average cost of a day in Italy?

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What is the difference between restaurants in Italy? In Italy, eating well is not synonymous with spending a lot, on the contrary: the country offers excellent options for all tastes and budgets. A super important tip: if you travel during the high season or during festive periods, such as Easter, Christmas and New Year, make your reservations in advance, for both lunch and dinner, ok? These are very busy periods and the restaurants are CROWDED, so do not take the risk!

Are you insecure?

If you feel insecure or have no time, and need  help to organize your trip,  do not hesitate to look for me! I will love to help you make your dream trip to Italy. And how can I do that? Continue reading this post until the end and you will understand how can we make your life and journey easier.

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