Many people grew up using the term “restaurant” to refer to any away-from-home destination for a meal, but as tastes changed, the ways to describe eateries became more numerous. Soon, fine-dining and family-style categories, among others, indicated to potential diners what they could expect at a particular establishment.
Some eating establishments deserve their own category, if only because there are so many different ways people refer to them. Many people go to a local shop for a cup of caffeine and a little something to go with it. Is that a cafe or a bistro?
Cafes: The word "cafe" literally means coffee and is French in origin. In Italy, it’s spelled “caffe” and is a place where a person can find a good cup of coffee or coffee drink. Such places often serve a limited menu of snacks such as baked goods or finger sandwiches. A cafe is usually small, intimate, and a place where you find tables of people engaged in conversations.
Bistros: The bistro’s origin is also French, but it takes the idea of the cafe and kicks it up. A bistro can be loosely compared to an American fast-food restaurant. Menu items are based around types of foods such as stews, soups, and other slow-cooked foods that can be prepared in large quantities and kept over time. The bistro’s origin goes back to the basements of apartments in Paris, where tenants often paid for both room and board. Like the cafe, bistros are usually small, intimate places, and bistro service may feature wine or beer for consumption.
Brasseries or Trattorias: These establishments can be compared to the American version of the brewery or European pub. The word “brasserie” in French means brewery. It describes a place where beer is brewed and light menu items are served in a casual atmosphere, somewhat similar to bistro service. In Italy, a trattoria is also a place where light fare is served, but the beverage of choice is usually local wine.