Eating in Italy

Eating in Italy is bound to be a fully pleasurable experience as long as you do not expect to find dishes comparable to the ones you would get at an Italian restaurant somewhere else outside the country.

Despite the exotic name of various dishes, Italian cuisine is really simple. “Elaborated/complicated” dishes are few and far between. The strength of Italian cuisine is in its simplicity and in the use of fresh ingredients, whether vegetables, tomatoes, cheeses, herbs or bread....

There are many, many books with Italian recipes. They may all help you prepare great meals. But, the one that we believe most accurately reflects Italian lifestyle and meals is
David Rocco’s Dolce Vita. Before heading to Italy, if you have the opportunity to do so, have a look at the book so to know what to expect.

About restaurants, trattorie, osterie and pizzerie
In Italy, there are many establishments where you can have a good meal. In the
past, a clear distinction could be made between restaurants, trattorie and osterie, not so much in food quality, rather in ambience and service. However, now the distinction tends to be blurred. In general:
  • Restaurants tend to be more expensive, particularly those that cater to tourists, usually near popular sites. These restaurant tend to have a white linen cloth on tables and more formally dressed waiters. If a restaurant is what you are looking for, look for one off the beaten track. These restaurants tend to be smaller and frequented by the locals as well.

  • A "trattoria" is a restaurant-like establishment where one can have just as good of a meal (if not better), at a significantly lower cost. Frequently they are family run, the menu selection may be smaller (but NOT necessarily so) and they are commonly used by locals. They tend to be inconspicuous to tourists as their entrance may not be highly marked, nor will there be a waiter standing on the curb inviting people in.

  • An "Osteria" is an establishment further "down" in the scale of price, but, again, not necessarily so in quality. Family run, they cater to locals. Particularly in large cities (Rome, Florence, Milan, etc.), look for a trattoria. While the waiters may not speak english, you may have a more "italian experience" with a home made meal at a relatively low cost.

  • A "pizzeria" specializes in ... making pizzas! However, a name is just a name. There are many premises that are called "Ristorante-Pizzeria". That indicates they can make pizza, but also have a more regular menu.

Our short list of Restaurants/Trattorie/Pizzerie in Italy

During our trips to Italy, we have tried numerous restaurants and trattorie. Always tried to shy away from "tourist traps", but we did end up in a few...

We don't want to recommend specific restaurants since, as long as the restaurant/trattoria is a reasonable one, we believe it will boil down to personal preferences and taste.

In our
Top Destinations section of this website, we only and briefly list the restaurants/trattorie we enjoyed or are worth mentioning for instance in Florence, in Rome, in the Chianti region, Orvieto and on the Island of Elba. As we post on more destinations we will expand the list. The list of restaurants is far from comprehensive since, when we travel to Italy, we always stay in locations where we have access to kitchen facilities to cook our own meals.

A Primer on Italian meals