Usually when abroad and wanting to go out for lunch or dinner, it is common to say, “Let’s go to a restaurant.” In Italy, however, there is more than one term to refer to places where food is prepared and served.
There is the Ristorante (restaurant), of course, but there are also the osterie, the trattoria, the taverna and many other types of places where to enjoy a meal. Actually, these three types of places are not all that different.
In the osterie, historically wine was mainly served. In some cases, cold snacks or hot dishes from the local, simple and rustic gastronomic tradition. The trattoria – a term mostly used abroad to refer to restaurants serving Italian cuisine – mainly specialized in serving meals. Its name derives from the French term traiteur (purveyor), derived from
The taverna instead falls somewhere in the middle, focusing sometimes more on the sale of drinks – as the osteria – other times on food – as the trattoria.
What differentiates the taverna from the others is its use of the simplest and most rustic of furnishings.
Wikipedia says that << the term “tavern” comes from the ancient French
The etymology of the currently used word recalls the function of the place, which is just that, a place of hospitality. >>
The osterie arose as places to stop for a place of respite and as a gathering point for citizens and intellectuals for discussion and social debate. They were mainly located in areas of transit or those intended for commerce, such as along roads, at intersections, in squares and at markets. Already in fourteenth century Bologna, there were as many as 150 osterie. One of these still stands today and it is possible to experience the informal, down-to-earth and provincial atmosphere: the Osteria del Sole (1465), still today, serves only drinks, but food can be brought from outside.
In the Decameron, by Giovanni Boccaccio, the
The list goes on. Just consider the fact that there even exists a game called
This leaves us with just one unanswered question, what is the difference between an osteria (or a trattoria, or a taverna) and a restaurant? Surely, it is not the difference in price or if the chef is known or not.
It surely is the fact that the osteria is also a place for socializing. We often go to an osteria just to talk over a glass of wine, while seated around heavy wooden tables, an image that holds strong even today in all of us.
Also important is the relationship between the osteria and its setting. The osteria itself conveys its location within a specific geographical area. The buildings, often simple and modest, became important based on the place where they stood and the activity that kept them in business. Their relationship with the local territory and its products is certainly no trivial variable.
In some ways the houses of Le Cesarine represent the Osteria 2.0