After examining the differences between the French Bistro and Brasserie, today we head to Italy to check on Tratorria and Osteria.
Like, a typical bistro, a trattoria is a small, traditionally family-owned, rustic eatery that often serves a few choice regional dishes (for example pesto in Genoa and carbonara in Rome) along with local wines. With many of the recipes past down from generation to generation and the typical family model of men handling the cash register, children serving the tables and women cooking.
The story of trattoria establishments started as places where street merchants would retire to for a long lunch and the eateries characterise with casual service, menu on board, low prices, decanter wine and unpretentious atmosphere and delicious home-made style food. The world trattoria has Latin roots, and in the Italian language the verb traiter (to treat) gave the name to a trattoria owner – trattore (host, keeper of an eating house-a trattoria). The word is cognate with the French traiteur – a culinary professional, chef, caterer.
The word trattoria appeared first in print in the English language in 1832, in William Gell book on Pompei excavation works. Gell described the festivity activities at the Pantheon in Pompei and that ”it differed but little in its uses from that which the Greeks called Lesche [public place, place of council, agora], and the modern Italian a trattoria.”
Today, osteria is an eating establishment very similar to a trattoria, but back in the day it was an inn or a local gathering spot where old men played cards and drunk wine from the innkeeper’s oak barrels. Wine was the main focus, though some places offered food as well.
The word osteria, to name a guest house or an inn, originates from the Latin “hospite” (guest). Back in time, osteria had a really important role for the social life of people. Today we won’t find as many osteria establishments out there, but those which exist still offer friendly atmosphere and characterise with simple, home-cooked meals and snacks (usually serve a fixed daily menu of two or three courses). Sometimes they also offer bedroom services like in the good old days, or even let customers bring their own food when sipping on the offered drinks.
The oldest certified osteria in Italy dates back to 14th century, but it was only in the 16th when the English readers first met the term in print.
In 1580, Anthony Munday in Zelauto: the Fountaine of Fame: “Being come to this Osteria, I entered, and the first person that I saw, was the Mistress of the house”.