By Hannah Dustman
FLORENCE, Italy –Italy has ristorantes, trattorias and osterias. The good news? You can’t go wrong with any of them!
All three Italian restaurants offer basically the same types of food – crunchy bruschetta, an array of savory pasta dishes covered in creamy sauces and meat-based dinners, such as prosciutto and wild boar. These establishments are found lining the cobblestone streets and alley ways of every piazza, catering to locals and tourists alike. However, the official difference between ristorantes, trattorias and osterias is their level of formality.
Ristorantes offer the most formal Italian dining experience, which often means they are the most expensive. Many times, tables are lined with a crisp table cloths.
Trattorias seem to offer a more family-friendly dining experience and perhaps a more narrow selection of food choices—and design their menus to magnify the specialty of the city or region.
Osterias are traditionally considered the least formal of the three dining options. Osterias sport simpler meals and fewer options to choose from. Their biggest perk is offering a lower price tag.
Remember that tipping your waiter is not required, suggested or necessary in Italy. Instead of tipping, a small charge called a coperto is automatically included in the bill. This is a per-person fee that is charged to set the table.
But unlike in the U.S., Italian waiters rarely split a table’s bill. It is also important to note while in Italy, most of the time it is necessary to wave the waiter down and verbally ask for the check, “conto, per favore,” or else you will find yourself sitting at the table for a long while after the meal.