A trattoria rooted in tradition may typically provide no printed menu, casual service, wine sold by the decanter rather than the bottle, and low prices, with an emphasis on a steady clientele rather than on haute cuisine. Food tends to be modest but plentiful (mostly following regional and local recipes), sometimes even served family-style, at common tables. This homely tradition has waned in recent decades. Many trattorias have taken on some of the trappings of a ristorante, providing relatively few concessions to the old rustic and familial style. The name 'trattoria' has also been adopted by some high-level restaurants.
Optionally, trattoria food could be bought in containers to be taken home. Etymologically, the word is cognate with the French term traiteur (a caterer providing take-out food). Derived in Italian from trarre, meaning 'to treat' (from the Latin tractare/trahere, 'to draw'), its etymology has also been linked to the Latin term, littera tractoria, which referred to a letter ordering provision of food and drink for officials traveling on the business of the Holy Roman Empire.
- "trattoria2". Treccani (in Italian). Archived from the original on 18 July 2019.
- Capatti, Alberto; Montanari, Massimo (2003). Italian Cuisine: A Cultural History. Columbia University Press. pp. 230–232. ISBN 978-0-231-50904-6.
- Pianigiani, Pietro Ottorino (1909). "trattóre". Vocabolario Etimologico di Pianigiani (in Italian). [via Dizionario Etimologico Online]. Archived from the original on 18 July 2019.
- "trattoria - Origin and meaning of trattoria". www.etymonline.com. Online Etymology Dictionary. Archived from the original on 19 July 2019.
- Colonna, Barbara (1997). "tràrre". Dizionario etimologico della lingua italiana (in Italian). Genoa: Newton & Compton. p. 387. ISBN 88-8129-796-5.