Bar (or Snack Bar)
Central to Italian culture, coffee is the
primary product served at bars. Caffe' is the word Italians use
to describe espresso. If you are looking for brewed coffee, request un
caffe' Americano. It is typical to pay first at the cassa
(cashier) and then present the receipt to the barman/barmaid while
repeating your order. A small tip (<= 1 Euro) to the barman is
Bars also typically serve alcohol,
pastries, and small snacks. Many bars also serve gelato and
These are small, family owned restaurants that usually offer a simple menu consisting of local
favorites. Trattoria's are a typically more economical than
a full ristorante, yet more expensive than a tavola calda.
Usually you can expect table service that is more of a 'down home' experience.
The trattoria is an excellent choice if you would like to
experience the local culture and flavors.
tavola calda means
'hot table'. These eateries are generally quite economical and offer the
best chance of popping in for a quick bite. They generally lack
table service, and if there is any table service it will be very basic -
perhaps fetching drinks. These are the fastest eateries because
the simple menu is pre-prepared and served cafeteria-style. A good
choice for a fast, economical lunch.
Ristorante is a
full-blown dining experience. Plates are generally served al a
carte and full service is the norm. There are a wide range of ristorante
experiences available from casual to ultra-posh and one should be
aware and dress accordingly.
aware that at most risorante's there will be a servizio and
a gratuito on the bill. Servizio is a place-setting charge
for each diner, usually 3 Euro or less, while the gratuito is a
gratuity or tip. It is wise to inspect the bill to find what
amounts have already been added in these categories and then add an
appropriate additional tip if service met or exceeded your expectations.
These small road-side rotisseries
are quick, easy, and tasty. Usually, there is very limited or no
seating and relying on a take-away or stand-up model. Typically, chicken
and turkey are skewered and rotisserie broiled over a wood-burnt
fire. The poultry is seasoned with salt and pepper, and in some
places special mixtures of seasonings and fresh herbs. Simple frittura
(deep fried) side dishes and patatine (chips and crisps) are
offered to accompany the chicken. On occasion, I have also seen red
meats and even fish offered at a Rosticceria.
vita dolce... Ice cream
shoppes. However, Italian gelato is not ice cream proper. It is
made with lighter cream and milk and incorporates rich and intense
flavors to compensate. Generally, apart from the ubiquitous packaged
frozen treats, each gelateria makes its own offerings. This makes gelato
tasting akin to wine tasting - there are many subtle
differences to be discovered and appreciated.
I have heard my Italian friends say a day
without pizza is like a day without sunshine (also, substitute 'pasta'
for pizza and it will still be a commonly heard expression).
Generally, the pizzeria will have an extensive pizza menu and
some simple pasta offerings. The service is take-away to full
sit-down table service.
The epicenter for outstanding pizza is,
with absolute certainty, Naples. The Neapolitans have built a
culture around their outstanding style of pizza. If you go to Napoli,
visit pizzeria Brandi downtown. Try a few different Neapolitan
pizzeria's. A pizza experience in Naples is a must! If you are
more than 50 Km outside of Naples, the Italian pizza is still good, but
Simply put, this is a sandwich shop
and/or bakery. The panioteca is a good choice for a quick,
economical lunch. However, be advised that Italians generally serve
their sandwiches simple. Meaning, that they are generally not served
with vegetables (i.e. lettuce, onion, tomato, pickles, etc.) There
are sandwiches that have tomatoes, but they follow commonly accepted
naming conventions throughout Italy. For example, a Caprese sandwich
will be made with mozzarella di buffola, tomatoes, and fresh
basil. So, if you were looking for a ham and mozzarella sandwich
with tomatoes and basil, you would request un panino Caprese con
A bakery or pastry shop. If you have a
sweet tooth, this could be the place for you. However, American's
be warned that sweets in Italy are generally not quite as sweet
comparable products in the USA. I have found that many times the
confections are a treat to the eyes but, leave my cravings unfulfilled.
Some pastries that I have found to be agreeable to my, embarrassingly
American, tastes are sfoliatella ricci (Sf-ohl-ee-ah-tell-uh
ree-kee) -a flaky pastry filled with a creamy custard filling, and cornetti
di ciccolate (korn-et-tee dee chick-oh-la-tay) a chocolate or
nutella filled croissant pastry.