If you’re like us, the Italian you’re most proficient in is restaurant. Wait, is it restaurant or trattoria? Or osteria? We’ve always wondered what the difference was, and now, as our public service to you, we gone and found out.
Dining in Florence
One of the essential questions when traveling in Italy is how to navigate the food scene. Visitors are often confused by the difference between trattorias, osterias, and ristorantes. When dining in Florence, understanding these titles can help you to find exactly what you’re looking for.
The original meanings of these names have changed over time and are no longer subject to ironclad rules. Despite this, they play an important role in the atmosphere and experience you’ll get when visiting these establishments.
Classically, osterias were roadside wine bars. They often operated like modern-day hostels, a place for weary travelers to take a break while traversing the Italian countryside. Their function has changed over time, and they’re now found across the Florentine city center. Typically, they offer food as well as wine. The osteria is generally the cheapest and most laid-back of the three common types of Tuscan eateries. If an authentic experience dining in Florence is what you’re after, a stop at an osteria for lunch will make you feel like a local.
In Tuscany, trattorias are typically small, family-owned establishments. They tend to serve classic, regional dishes. The atmosphere is quintessentially Florentine, and the food and drink follow suit. If you’re looking for a casual place to enjoy Florentine staples like Ribollita or Pappardelle al Cinghiale, finding a popular trattoria should do the trick. When dining in Florence, at a trattoria you’ll likely find menus that rotate with the season to make the most out of fresh, locally-sourced ingredients.
Traditionally, the ristorante is the most upscale of the three eateries. When dining in Florence, you can find ristorantes that range from nice ‘n’ casual to chic and upscale. While they naturally offer traditional Tuscan cuisine, innovative menu items that highlight seasonal ingredients are most readily found in ristorantes. Beyond local ingredients, these eateries are likely to keep all manner of delicacies and exclusive year-round items on the menu. Bottom line: If you’re looking for Michelin-star-worthy food, you may just find it at Florence’s top ristorantes.