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English is my first language and I've been learning Italian for a little over a year now. In my recent lessons and through searching translations I've found four different ways to say coffee shop.

  1. negozio di caffè
  2. bar
  3. caffetteria
  4. caffè

I'm curious if in Italy one of these terms is more common to use? Are all of these terms interchangeable or do they denote a certain type of coffee shop? My partner who grew up in the United States, but whose father was from Italy said that from what he remembered going to Italy as a child the term "bar" was usually used for a grab and go type of espresso place. Is that correct?

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    "negozio di caffè" suggests more the idea of a store selling coffee beans and powder rather than a place where you can order a coffee. "Bar" indicates a place where you can order a variety of alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages (and often items like crisps, candies and the likes). "Caffetteria" is more specific for a place serving coffee (and cappuccio, latte, etc...) and sweet pastry. "Caffè" is often used as a short version for "caffetteria", but it is not uncommon to ear people using it to refer to a "bar" that serves coffee too.
    – secan
    Oct 25, 2022 at 14:26
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    @secan: I more or less agree on most points, but caffè is not short for caffetteria, and caffetteria, even if it was used long ago in Italian, at present is a recent calque from English “cafeteria” (see treccani.it/vocabolario/caffetteria).
    – DaG
    Oct 25, 2022 at 14:34
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    OP, as another commenter mentioned, negozio di caffè is a literal translation of “coffee shop”, but not actually used in that sense. You might instead add bottega del caffè, a very old-fashioned and quaint way to say “coffee shop”; its contraction resulted in present-day use of caffè for the place (as well as the beverage).
    – DaG
    Oct 25, 2022 at 14:37
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    @secan I suggest you to post this as an answer. Oct 25, 2022 at 18:10

1 Answer 1

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As suggested, I am re-posting my comment as an answer, adding the comment from @DaG too.

"Negozio di caffè" suggests more the idea of a store selling coffee beans and powder rather than a place where you can order a coffee.

"Bar" indicates a place where you can order a variety of alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages (and often items like crisps, candies and the likes).

"Caffetteria" is used with two slightly different meanings (see treccani.it):

  1. it can indicate a place serving coffee (and cappuccino, latte, etc...) and sweet pastry (meaning 1/2 of the link) or
  2. it can indicate a place connected to a museum, university, station, etc... selling food and beverages (meaning 3 of the link)

Nowadays, the second meaning is probably the most used one, while for the first meaning the abbreviation "caffè" (see below) is more common.

"Caffè", which literally means simply "coffee", is quite often used as a short version for "caffetteria" (in its first meaning), but it is not uncommon to ear people using it to refer to a "bar" that serves coffee too.
E.g. «Andiamo a quel nuovo caffè in centro» («Let's go to that new coffee shop downtown»)

I also would add that the distinction between "bar" and "caffetteria" (in its first meaning) is not a clear-cut one; many bars are actually what we used to call "bar caffetteria", serving both bar and caffetteria products and virtually all of them serve at least coffee.

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  • OP, mind that caffetteria is considered either a very dated term or a recent loanword from English “cafeteria” (see treccani.it/vocabolario/caffetteria).
    – DaG
    Oct 26, 2022 at 8:25
  • Secan, why do you keep saying that caffè is an abbreviation of caffetteria? It's the other way around: it's caffetteria that is a derived word from caffè.
    – DaG
    Oct 26, 2022 at 8:26
  • @DaG, I am not quite sure I understand your point: if I say "Vado al caffè in centro" or "Vado alla caffetteria in centro" ("I go to the coffee shop downtown") I am sayng the exact same thing but "il caffè" is shorter than "la caffetteria"; that is what I mean. If you think that is not clear enough and could use some rephrasing, please feel free to edit the answer.
    – secan
    Oct 26, 2022 at 12:55
  • Ah, ok, I thought you meant that the word caffè was born as a shortened version of caffetteria or something (since you say “abbreviation”). As for the words themselves, I'd never use caffetteria out of a museum or a university (and perhaps not even there), but perhaps there are regional variations.
    – DaG
    Oct 26, 2022 at 14:38

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