Written by PAULA HARDY

a dining experience

How to choose

Eat Italy:

While the Italian dining scene has become increasingly sophisticated over the last few decades, the family run trattoria is still the country’s most popular eatery.

Traditional dining habits remain strong, and different venues retain clearly defined roles. But how do you know an enoteca from a tavola calda, and which one is right for you? We can help.


The Italian bar/caffè is a wonderful institution, open all day long, serving breakfast pastries, lunchtime sandwiches, snacks and aperitivi alongside coffee, soft drinks, basic cocktails and wine.

When ordering at a busy bar, do so at the till (cassa), then take your receipt and repeat your order to the bartender. If it's quiet, the bartender may take your order and you pay at the end.


Usually seen in the north of the country, a birreria is a bar that specializes in selling beer (usually local labels) alongside the usual café offerings.


Italians rarely drink without eating, and you can eat well at many enoteche - wine bars that serve snacks such as bruschette, platters of cheeses or cold meats, and a few simple hot dishes.


Eating gelato is as much a part of Italian life as morning coffee – in Sicily, ice cream in a brioche bun is a favorite breakfast snack. In artisanal gelaterie, flavors are strictly seasonal.


In the past, osterie were family run places specializing in one dish and house wine. Similar to a trattoria, their focus is on well-priced, traditional cooking. Modern osterie can be quite trendy.


Every Italian’s favorite cheap and casual meal is a gloriously simple pizza. Most Italians precede their pizza with a starter of bruschette or fritti (mixed fried foods), and wash it down with beer.

Pizzerias often only open in the evening, as their wood-fired ovens take a while to get going. For a snack on the run, pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) places are open daily.