A Beginner’s Guide to Types of Restaurants in Italy

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Want to know more ? Check out this free culinary guide to Modena Italy.

Restaurants in Italy were once distinguished by name. So an osteria would be different from a ristorante and different from a trattoria. Today it’s not so simple as owners choose names on a whim.

It’s confusing.

But I was lucky because while in Modena, my friend Andrea from Taste Bologna, helped me understand the history of different types of restaurants in Italy.


Not surprisingly you can order alcohol here. Locals also come for their morning coffee, inexpensive snack or sandwich during the day. You will find people standing up at the bar, but be warned if you choose to sit at a table and a waiter serves you the price will be higher.


The same concept as a bar but with another name. Come here for a drink and bite to eat at night or inexpensive snack and caffé during the day.

Restaurants in Modena may be called Enoteca, Osteria, Bar, Cafe, Ristorante. So many confusing names for restaurants in Italy! This post explains what they all mean, and which ones are the most expensive.


A pastry shop and café. If you’d like more elaborate pastries or sandwich with a morning cappuccino head here.


A wine bar, but you can also find cheese and cured meats. Some may have a kitchen, which would also include pizza or simple main dishes.


While osteria once meant a traditional wine bar with fairly priced food, it is not so simple today.

Back in the day osteria meant a place of relief with wine and accommodation. The term “osteria” now often reflects a desire to cook traditional dishes but price can vary. Most notably in Modena, Osteria Francescana is a Michelin star restaurant with the price tag to boot.


Generic restaurant, expect to pay more than a pizzeria but the price varies wildly. Take note that in any restaurant, no matter the name, it is customary to order more than one course.


Restaurants in Modena may be called Enoteca, Osteria, Bar, Cafe, Ristorante. So many confusing names for restaurants in Italy! This post explains what they all mean, and which ones are the most expensive.


Exactly as it sounds, although some are more formal with a dining room and pasta options while others are for take-out. Regardless, this is a great place to dine on a budget. In some cases you can buy a slice of pizza. Ask for pizza al taglio and point to what you’d like, how much and pay by the weight.

Tavola Calda

Cafeteria-type restaurant, great for those on a budget.

If you want to know more about eating in Italy – the customs, traditions and food
check out my free culinary travel guide to Modena.

Join the Conversation

  1. Fascinating to hear about the differences in eating establishments in Italy. People are really serious about their food there!

  2. Super helpful, especially with places like Osterias, etc. And, we went to Bar Schiavoni too!

  3. Never knew that there can be so many different variations of places which offer cuisine! The Italians truly love their food, nice and informative post 🙂

  4. When I was in Italy, I loved how we could go to these different places and try different types of food. It was an adventure in itself. Pretty much went to everything on this list!

  5. Noori travel says:

    Wow! Amazing post about Restaurants in Italy. I love Italian food. Thanks a lot for sharing.

  6. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    Your blogs will be my guide when I finally get to eat my way through Italy 🙂

  7. Megan | Traveling Nine to Fiver says:

    Love this. Some great tips for people just figuring it out. Wish someone gave this to me when I first arrived in Rome. The first time some of the other students in my program at the same thing at the bar and I did at the table and had a not so subtle price difference was a big lesson. I learned to like eating standing up. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Hey Ayngelina! For your next visit in Modena I strongly recommend to have lunch or dinner at Osteria Francescana! It takes a while to make a reservation, but it is worth the effort (and the money). Certainly one of the most interesting restaurants in Italy (and for sure the most popular chef, Massimo Bottura) with a highly sophisticated kitchen that has its roots clearly in the typical ingredients of the Emilia-Romagna. All the best! Petra

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I did end up going my next visit and really appreciated his interpretation of Modenese cuisine after having it the traditional way. It was an epic meal.

  9. Andreajessy says:

    How luscious (Pizza), I love Italy & Italian food.

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