Our Italian Kitchen Table

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What's the difference between an Osteria and a Trattoria?

Osteria, Trattoria: the very words evoke the pleasure of dining out on great Italian food. In Italy, however, they denote much more than generic names for the Italian restaurants found in London and New York. 

In Italy, an osteria has always been a popular restaurant among poorer folk and is typically simple and inexpensive, with a very basic menu. A trattoria maintains a similarly unpretentious charm but, if you’re on the hunt for something a little fancier, it is widely considered the more ‘upmarket’ choice.

What continues to make the Italian osteria and trattoria so special today? They showcase the best of authentic Italian spirit: an attachment to tradition, strong family loyalties and a passion for real, home-cooked food.

These types of eateries are largely family-run. This homely feel is evident as soon as you walk in the door. With mismatched décor reminiscent of a rustic living room, the shared common tables are always lined with eccentric and lively locals.

Forget fancy menus. The specials, often read aloud by the papà, will be comprised of family recipes and the finest artisanal produce. Local wine will be thoughtfully recommended by the owner himself and, if you’re lucky, the meal perhaps followed by a complimentary dolce.  
No osteria or trattoria across Italy is ever the same, and their diversity maps out Italy’s vibrant regional culture. From Rome’s creamy cacio e pepe (pasta tossed with Pecorino Romano and black pepper) to the simple pasta e patate (pasta and potatoes) found in Naples, the focus of these types of eateries is to celebrate the very best of regional Italian food rather than global cuisine. 
However you choose to describe it, your experience in the traditional Italian osteria or trattoria will certainly be memorable. Forget pricey guided tours or heavy textbooks: we can’t think of a more pleasurable way to discover authentic Italian culture than through its simple and wholesome cuisine. 
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