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Oct 31, 2007 06:21 PM

Osteria? Trattoria?

This is my first posting on Chowhound. My husband and I are leaving for Rome in a couple of weeks and have been reading these boards for restaurant ideas. We like authentic local fare, and I'm confused by the different designations. What is the difference between an osteria and a trattoria?

We have three nights in Rome and would appreciate recommendations for 1) our first night (jet-lagged) somewhere in the vicinity of Via Cavour, and 2) the other two nights near Piazza Navona and/or Campo di Fiori.

It's been years since I've been to Rome but I still salivate just thinking about the wonderful antipasto tables. Are there any you would recommend? Perhaps there's a restaurant where we could have a lunch of antipasto?

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  1. Trattoria is a small restaurant, in an osteria you are often served by the owner, the food choice can be more minimalistic and it should be cheaper. (should...). An osteria is often fine for a glass of wine, some salumi e formaggio. often you stand @ the bar and don't sit... Unfortunately, I can reccomend only places in Trieste.... or Paris.
    If you like antipasti, an Osteria or wine bar could be a good choice. If you take 3 or 4 different types and a dessert, they should accept you for lunch (sausage, cheese, peperoni, dried tomato, ecc...).
    Personally, I love having an aperitif with a snack, Rome is full of such places. I don't like to sit down in one place.... :) have a nice trip

    1. There is not much difference, and the designation in itself should not factor into your choice of a restaurant as many places keep an old name even though they've evolved into something else. Trattoria is a plain, traditional restaurant. Osteria as a designation is used more loosely than trattoria and has been revived lately by the Slow Food people to indicate pretty much a place with trattoria food and particularly good wine. Places serving wine by the glass and plates of salami are wine bars.

      La Piazzetta, near via Cavour, has a very good antipasto buffet. If you ask the owner what it is, he says trattoria. But the business card says ristorante and the canopy outside, which I think antedates the present ownership, says Hostaria. You have to size your places up on a case by case basis; the names don't help.

      4 Replies
      1. re: mbfant

        I've read your review of La Piazzetta on another thread, and we'll probably eat there our first night. The other two evenings are a toss-up between Orso 80, Checchina del 1887, Monti, and Nerone. So many restaurants, so little time!!

        1. re: mommabear

          Narrow your choice to Monti and Checchino. Orso 80 has this gimmick of a zillion antipasto trays they bring to your table, but it's all pretty tasteless and generally dubious. It is not a decent restaurant. I am extremely fond of Nerone, but of the three remaining, it's the least interesting, unless there are compelling sentimental or logistical reasons for choosing it, in which case don't hesitate.

          1. re: mbfant

            Be aware that your mileage may vary *considerably* at Nerone if you are a tourist and not a regular. I say this based on my own experience and that of others whom I know.

            1. re: zerlina

              Thanks for the replies.

              This is very strange for me. I'm usually much more spontaneous and I have never mapped out my restaurant meals. But I'm a serious home cook and am SO looking forward to authentic Italian food.

              I had considered Orso 80 because it is so close to our hotel (Albergo del Senato) and we could walk there. From my map, it appears that Monti and Checchino are a taxi ride away, but sounds like it's worth the ride.

      2. If you find yourself near Piazza del Popolo (at the edge of Villa Borghese) and get hungry, go to I Fratellastri on via Flaminia. Not touristy at all, we were the only non-locals, excellent carbonara and other Roman specialties. The interior is very nice and modern, and service is professional and "gentile".

        Near Campo de Fiori, we had a lovely dinner just off the main campo at "da Pancrazio" -- octopus salad with pesto was delicate (NOT overdressed with pesto), tender and delicious -- and excellent pastas. Excellent service and caffe. The restaurant is built on the foundations of the Teatro Pompey, and they claim that ancient roman senatorial meetings often took place after shows at that theater, and that in fact it was *there* that Caesar was stabbed!!

        In general, I find Italian treatment of cooked meats to be a little tough, even in the places recommended by the Italian Slow Food guide (not as much of a problem in excellent American Italian restaurants). Although I am more of a "carne" person than a "pesce" person, I found the pesce and frutti di mare more delightful.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Torina

          haha, we actually went on an ancient city field trip to da Pancrazio- true story, the forum thing was made up by Shakespeare and lame tour guides.

          We also stumbled upon I Fratellastri, and found it a delightful lunch stop. Quick, delicious, and surprisingly light options both in style (nice salad and vegetables) and on the credit card. Close not only to del Popolo but also on the way to the amazing, fabulous, Villa Giulia museum.

          1. re: chocolatstiletto

            RE: Caesar's assassination (most probably) took place outside the curia, which is part of the ruins at Largo Argentina (the cat sanctuary,, on the via Arenula side, about midway from the corner. To make this post food-related, a branch of the great gelateria Aracoeli is now open just up via Arenula from Largo di Torre Argentina--do try the vin santo gelato with almonds & biscotti, or the chocolate-prune-armagnac flavor.

          2. re: Torina

            Thanks for the suggestions. Actually I was wondering where we could get a good fish dinner.

          3. A ristorante is usually higher end
            Osteria is usually middle ground with good wine
            enotecha is usually lower end

            1 Reply
            1. re: garyjrp1

              Tell that to Hostaria dell'Orso and Enoteca Pinchiorri! In fact enoteca is almost a neologism for a place that is principally about the wine. Osteria (or hosteria or hostaria) is an old wine shop where clients brought their own food, but today can be a new place with better wine than food, or just a restaurant affecting a traditional name. Hostaria dell'Orso was, hundreds of years ago, an inn for pilgrims. Ristoranti can be very rudimentary as well as high-end.