If one day somebody calculated how many tourists visit traditional Italian trattoria and osteria, I am sure the footfall would be on a par with the Colosseum, Uffizi Gallery and The Doge’s Palace. After all, food and wine are among top Italy attractions.
A traditional trattoria is a simple, less formal than a restaurant, eatery where you can find local specialties served in generous amounts. Historically, decor and furniture have always been plain and basic and prices low in a trattoria. They normally existed in working class districts of big cities and rural areas. However, lately, trattorias have become more fashionable in Italy and, although, the food tends to be good, portions are getting smaller, prices higher and interiors more sophisticated.
It is not easy to find a good authentic trattoria in big cities like Rome or Milan. You might have to take a taxi to get away from the beaten tourist routes. Trattoria Da Cesare al Casaletto (Via del Casaletto, 45, 00151 Rome) serves honest Roman dishes such as pasta cacio e pepe and trippa alla romana. Another excellent trattoria that offers hearty Roman staples is “Tanto pe’ magna” (Via Giustino de Jacobis, 9, 00154 Rome).
Another traditional type of Italian eatery is an osteria. Historically, they were somewhat of a prototype of modern day hotels: they offered rooms, served wine and a few simple local dishes. Osterie were strategically located along roads, near markets and ports. Nowadays, an osteria often will not have a printed formal menu, instead a blackboard at the entrance or a waiter will tell you what is on offer. Osteria Al Brindisi in Ferrara is said to be the oldest one in the world as its first documented mention goes back to 1435 (although, back then it was called “Osteria of a drunkard”).
Osteria del Sole in Bologna is only a few decades younger, dating back to 1465. As in many old osterie, only wine is served here and customers are allowed to bring their own food. Another ancient osteria, Ca’ de Bezzi, can be found in Bolzano. In its 600 years of existence it has seen many illustrious customers: from Teutonic knights to Sigmund Freud. Today it serves artisan beers and rich local specialties such as fried potatoes with beef and onions, roasted pork and ravioli with butter and cheese. Old-fashioned and tasty Italy attractions !
Photos by: Piers Goodhew, Yukino Miyazawa, Scott D. Haddow