What’s the Difference Between a Trattoria & Osteria?

In Italy, there’s no shortage of eateries but choosing the perfect spot can pose challenging. There are endless options including  trattorias, osterias, mescitas, hostarias and more. Yes, there are more. It can be difficult to select a location when there is a multitude of options, but is there really a difference between these eateries? Read on to find out.

In the past, a trattoria was a more casual dining location while a ristorante was elegant and formal. Currently, these words can be used interchangeably as trattorias have become a bit more formal. However, you can still walk into either and notice distinct differences. In fact, there are some major differences when it comes to eat eatery.

Ristorante: Many ristorantes still uphold their reputation as a formal establishment. You’ll find tables dressed in linen, fine china, and an extensive menu. The waitstaff is well-versed in Italian food and they’re usually extremely knowledgeable when it comes to Italian wines, desserts and entrées.

Trattoria: These are small, family run businesses with several dishes on the menu. In some trattorias, the recipes have been past down from generation to generation so you are truly getting the family Italian dinner experience. Decor can change from unique and intricate to subtle and refined.

Osteria: In the past, an osteria was a place where locals gathered to play cards and drink wine. This type of establishment didn’t always serve food, rather, an osteria was quite similar to a bar. Osterias have transitioned throughout the years and now they are closely tied to trattorias.  Here you’ll find home cooked meals and a rustic charm.

Mescita: Established as a wine shop, mescitas now serve small bites for those on the go. From olives and cheese to meats to paninis, mescitas have gained traction with those seeking a small portion of Italian food. In Boston, mescitas are quite successful as we are constantly on the go. Pick up a bottle of wine after work and a quick snack, then you’re out the door.

Trattoria Il Panino is Boston’s best Trattoria, serving large portions of authentic Italian food right from the Amalfi Coast. Book a reservation and indulge in our rich desserts, full-bodied wines and creamy Italian pasta dishes. We have a massive selection of Italian food ranging from light, healthy options to heavier comfort foods.