Mangia! Mangia! The Complete Guide to Restaurants in Italy

Posted on August 21, 2011

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What are the different restaurant classifications in Italy? Which one is best for what I want?

From pizzaria’s to osteria’s, the names of Italian eateries can be a bit confusing for travelers. This article explains the differences between them, and provides a description of what type of food, service and atmosphere to expect under each heading.

By Gina Mussio

You’ve made it to Italy, a country known above all else for its food. Italian cuisine is remade all over the world, from the thin-crust pizza in your hometown to the cheap spaghetti college students survive on, so there is no doubt that trying the local dishes should be on the top of your to-do list.

The different titles for Italian restaurants can be confusing to newcomers. Here is a list of the different types of restaurants you’ll find in Italy, and what to expect there:

  • Pizzeria: La Pizzeria is typically a laid-back atmosphere perfect for socializing over an excellent, inexpensive meal. Known for its wide variety of pizzas at inexpensive prices, there’s an option to please every eater. Young Italians often order multiple pizzas to share – you and your friends should try the same.
  • Bar: A bar is not your typical American Bar for drinking, but more of a café with sandwiches, drinks, coffee and snacks. Italians often frequent bars during the day to drink a coffee and socialize. Drink your coffee standing and you won’t pay a service charge.
  • Pub: A pub is the equivalent to an American bar, offering beer, liquor and mixed drinks of all kinds. Sometimes serving food, it is best to order early in the night and expect bar food. Go for a night out with friends to drink and watch the soccer game that will most certainly be playing.
  • Osteria: A term not as widely used today, an osteria is typically a small restaurant that’s main attraction is wine. Small plates of food are offered to compliment your wine of choice.
  • Caffé: A caffé is closest to an American coffeehouse. Go to buy coffee and relax while drinking it, perhaps enjoying a small breakfast as well. Sometimes there are also different kinds of panini, perfect for that mid-morning snack.
  • Gelateria: The gelateria is an Italian ice cream parlor, serving rich, creamy ice cream that is very different from your typical American ice cream. With a wide variety of natural and sweet tastes, try a cone of every flavor to find your favorite.

One of the greatest prides of Italians is their food, and upon the first bite of any Italian dish it is clear why. So whatever eatery you choose there is sure to be a meal to please. Buon Appetito!

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