An osteria (Italian pronunciation: [osteˈria]) in Italy was originally a place serving wine and simple food. Lately, the emphasis has shifted to the food, but menus tend to be short, with an emphasis on local specialities such as pasta, grilled meat or fish, and often served at shared tables. Ideal for a cheap lunch, osterie (the plural in Italian) also cater for after work and evening refreshment. Osterie vary greatly in practice: some only serve drinks and clients are allowed to bring in their own food; some have retained a predominantly male clientele whilst others have reached out to students and young professionals. Some provide music and other entertainment. Similar to osterie are bottiglierie, where you can take a bottle or flask to be re-filled from a barrel, and enoteche which generally pride themselves on the range and quality of their wine. In Emilia-Romagna are located three of the oldest italian osterie: "Osteria del Sole" and "Osteria del Cappello" in Bologna, "Osteria al Brindisi" in Ravenna, established between the 14th and 15th century.
The oldest "osterie" in Italy
Osteria del Cappello o Al Cappello Rosso
Thanks to the historical archives of Bologna, it has been possible to date back to a “Osteria del Cappello” certified from 1375. This Osteria could have changed location many times until 1700. In fact the locals were not property of the host, and often the symbol of the inn remained the same even though its position had changed. The actual location of the Ostaria dates back to 1652, when host Domenico Simoncini decides to place the inn in Via de’ Fusari near Piazza Maggiore.
In 1712 the Bolognese engraver Giuseppe Maria Mitelli included the Osteria in the “Giuoco nuovo di tutte le osterie che sono in Bologna”, with the same logo as nowadays. The sign of the tavern in the game occupies the box #41, followed by the description of the tavern as a place where it is possible to eat “good partridges” finely larded, together with “croutons”. The Osteria Del Cappello is the only inn of this old name to be still in activity in Bologna, together with the Osteria del Sole.
Gillian Riley, The Oxford Companion to Italian Food, 2007
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