Where to eat in Cortona – Ristorante or Trattoria?

I’ve been asked many times a recommendation on where to eat in Cortona. Restaurants in Cortona are all really good, the choice will depend on what you’d like to have!

Are you looking for a good restaurant with excellent service and innovative Tuscan cuisine? Would you prefer a typical Tuscan meal with all sort of meats and pasta? Are you dreaming of a pizza?

Here is my little guide to help you choose the best option!

What’s the difference between Ristorante and Trattoria?

If you look at names, you will see many different definitions – ristorante, trattoria, osteria, enoteca, fiaschetteria, pizzeria, taverna, bistrot, braceria…  but what do they mean? Is there really a difference between a trattoria and a ristorante?

The answer is not always easy, I can give you some general advices but you should be aware that many restaurants call themselves “trattoria” or “osteria” and vice versa. Others adopt fancy names that you may not understand, but don’t be frustrated! Knowing the general rules I’m sure you will understand the difference from the moment you walk in a place or simply by looking at the menu.

1. Where to eat: Ristorante in Cortona

If the place is called a “ristorante”, it means it is a full service restaurant, with fine tableware, experienced waiters and quite a formal ambience.

Restaurants in Cortona usually serve Tuscan dishes but using refined ingredients. This means, for example, that they will tell you if a prosciutto is a “Prosciutto di Norcia” or “del Casentino”. Also, they tend to have innovative versions of typical recipes – a sous vide Chianina may be a good example to try!

Even if the name on the storefront may be different, you can tell you are in a “ristorante” when you see all waiters dressed in the same classic shirt, elegant decor, long descriptions of dishes on the menu and, in general, slightly higher prices.

2. Where to eat: Trattoria in Cortona

The trattoria is traditionally a family-owned, casual restaurant. They serve fresh and traditional food from Tuscany. By traditional, I mean something that I would eat at my grandmother’s house on a Sunday lunch. And that’s why it is common to find the owner’s mother or grandmother in the kitchen.

Most dishes include meat, either wild boar, pork, beef, rabbit… as the Tuscan tradition requires. Every trattoria may be different in variety of the menu and ingredients, because each family has different recipes that they pass down from generation to generation.

Prices are usually a little lower than a restaurant and the setting is more simple, with smaller glasses and rustic decor.

3. Pizzeria and others

These are specialty-based eating options, which offer something unique to stand out among the others.

Only a few places in the town center serve pizza cooked in a wood stove (as the true pizza should be!).

Other examples include hamburgers made with Tuscan ingredients (Chianina is the queen, again!), pasta, sandwiches, grilled meat and even sushi as their specialty. Expect to find a variety of casual and trendy decor in this places, interesting menus and get ready to try them all!

4. Enoteca and Café

Almost all cafès and enoteca in Cortona serve apetizers and light lunches. In these places you can find schiacciate or ciaccia, salads, simple pasta dishes, taglieri with a selection of cold cuts and cheese.

A good option for lunch if you don’t have much time or for a break in the afternoon.

→ Read my recommendations for a true “Local” food break!

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