The anti-scam guide to italian restaurants

The anti-scam guide to italian restaurantsE’ sempre una questione di polarità. Noi non avevamo tradotto in inglese il manuale semi serio formerly known as La guida anti-truffa ai ristoranti italiani. Ma voi ce lo avete chiesto. Come potevamo rifiutare?

Recently a couple of Japanese tourists paid 695 Euros for a lunch at PASSETTO, a tourist-trap restaurant in Rome.  Since then, Italians have rushed to the aid of tourists in Italy, defending their rights.  Alright then, but who comes to the aid of Italians in Italy? Well, if we are asked for a 115 Euro tip, we don’t call the police first, we call the psych ward. To avoid this HitHimNowSinceYouAintGonnaSeeHimAgain attack in the future perpetrated by infamous tourist-traps, we have put together this helpful checklist. OK, here it is. Examine it closely point by point, using our DI (Danger Index).

1- The fishing waiter. DI: Avoid Like Bubonic plague.
A picturesque character constantly “reeling in” people outside of the restaurant. He will bewitch you with the promise of luscious feasts in your own language. Only to leave you unsatisfied with frozen lasagne and overcooked spaghetti.

2- The unwritten menu. DI: High. Cases of credit cards fainting under stress have been reported.
Do not trust that the waiter has your best financial interest at heart.  Ask for a printed menu, this is mandatory under the law. Prices must be visible, guaranteed by a notary public. Keep in mind that it takes a split second for a trained host to guess your income and work you accordingly.

3- The fixed price menu. DI: Elevated. Like your blood pressure after seeing the bill.
The only thing that will be fixed is the stunned look on your face when you look at your bill and see “Extra” for the coffee and the limoncello. What, did you think it was included? If those are the only extra charges on your bill, consider yourself lucky. Tourists have actually paid 10E for bread and 15E for napkins.

4- The “Fontana di Trevi” Menu. DI: Lethal. (Expecially for Japanese people). Equivalent of  “I Have A Bridge To Sell You” Menu. Harakiris often reported.
In many restaurants there are menus in different languages. Meaning, the 10E for a “cacio and pepe” plate of pasta served to Italians, becomes 30 for the “gullible American” and 40 for the “almond eye sucker”. Possible solution: ask for the menu written in Italian, tell them you need to practice the language.

5- Keep the change. DI: Chapter 11. (In Italy, to leave a tip isn’t mandatory. That’s because the price of taxes and service are already built into the menu and supplemented by the “coperto”  — a cover charge already listed on the menu. The owner pays the waiters a respectable salary, as opposed to the US, where they are paid minimal wages and rely more heavily on tips).
Well, it used to be “keep the change”. Now waiters can buy a bank collecting just three tips. Since tipping isn’t mandatory, the philistine hosts have worked out their own creative way around this. For example the waiters at PASSETTO have negotiated with Japanese tourists a 4-5% of the bill. Result:  a tip of 115E.

6 – Bread and service. DI: Moderate. Providing you know the ongoing market price of a baguette by heart.
It isn’t like this for the rest of Italy, but in Rome, the table, the cloth, the napkins, the chairs, the silver and the bread should be “price-less”.  (For everything else, there’s MasterCard).  In the Lazio Region (Rome) the adding of “Pane e Coperto” (bread and service) on the bill is illegal.

7- THE NotOnlyRestoPizzaBarLounge. DI: Hunger Inducing.
The croquette is burnt outside and frozen inside. The combination of lazy asses and improvised owners — a little-of-this-a-little-that — is frightening. With disastrous results for the accidental clients (as in: just suffered an accident). Signs to look out for:  clumsy when filling your glass with water, burnt coffee, frozen pizza. The ON button on the microwave oven is the only instrument in which the workers are proficient.

8- Fresh fish. DI: Beware of Sharks
A chapter, in itself, already fishy. The sea food offered as fare has almost always previously been frozen. In the case of combo fried fish plates, forget “almost”. If the fish is actually fresh, you will pay by weight, not by portion.  This means 50E for an anemic flounder. Your wife fancies lobster?  Give her a condo instead: it’s way cheaper. Oops, she’s not your wife?…

9- The bill. DI: Critical. How good are you with the third degree ala Sergeant Friday?
The bill is on the table. Read it carefully. It has been known to happen that the water turned into wine — as expensive as Brunello to be exact — although you were never invited to the Last Supper. If the bill looks suspicious to you, be calm, get your cell and call the carabinieri. See the host turn into a shade of what in Rome is known as PASSETTO green.

Well, you’re out and — incredible but true — you’re having a good time. So, what else? Oh, yeah, thanks to Dissapore, right?

Linda Di Franco

12 Luglio 2009

commenti (10)

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  1. antonio ha detto:

    E’ improbabile che un cameriere newyorkese prenda meno di uno italiano, ma facciamo finta che sia cosi’ =)

    Riguardo l’acqua che diventa vino erano le nozze di Cana, non l’ultima cena. Ecco, ho fatto la mia parte da pedante.

    1. Roman ha detto:

      Antonio, lavorave come cameriere a new york city guadagnavo 4$ per ora, e 40$ giorno di mancia. Lavoravo tutti giorni, giorno e sera, 12 ore.
      Tasse sulle mance pagate da camerieri, per cui ogni mese guadagnavo 2500$ e pagavo 1000$ tasse. Affitto 1200$, e in new york con 300$ non mangi.

      Adesso faccio cameriere a Bergamo, prendo 1100 euro al mese, 450 di affitto e vivo bene.

  2. IMR ha detto:

    I found your website and felt that you should know that there in a restaurant in Rome that is making a bad image for the good ones. We have planned an extended stay in Rome and have had only one bad experience.

    Today, we ate at a restaurant named Apostoli XII in Rome.
    They never told us the price of the fish soup and when the bill came we were surprised with a bill for 370 Euros including 43E for tax.

    We have been here for a week and have not seen any restaurant bills that included tax but the real shock was the price for the soup. It was great but a family of five, including 3 children can’t afford prices like that.

    We talked to the manager who had “hawked” us off the street in the first place. He promised great food and discounts. We should have known that a scam was about to occur. He was no help but seemed insulted that we questioned his pricing. Even if it was legitimate, and it was not, the waiter never told us the price yet pushed it as their most popular dish. I don’t think that visitors are lining up for fish soup at this price.

    Then, the waiter insisted that we tip him on top of the outrageous bill.
    If you want to know more about this story or have any ideas on how to report this to the local authorities, please contact me.



    I. Mark Rubin, Esq.
    V-904.396.7711 F-904.212.0136

  3. Jeremy Harding ha detto:


    Here is a classic – we went (a party of ten) to a restaurant called the Fontanella Sistina, near the Barbarini station. So far so good.

    The place had been recommended by one of the party – which was fine as far as it went. However, it turned out to be built around three separate scams.

    First the food wasn’t much chop. This I guess, isn’t a crime – just regrettable. You move on.

    The second – the menu was ambiguously printed to imply that all the wines were around 11 euros. In fact, the hand written menu used 11 as a duplication for the word Euro at the top of the column. Prices varied enormously but this was very far from obvious. We fell for this one to the extent of 120 euros. Damn. It is a scam – the menu is not clear.

    Then there was the – one person asks for antipasto and the waiter suggests antipasto be shared around every one. One assumes that the this is intended as a sensible suggestion – it’s not – it’s a money generating machine. This turned out to be a huge quantity of food at an incredible price. He charged each person in the party – including those who had already ordered an starter course – 26 euros each for an antipasto – completely outrageous. At the end the party of 10 people received a bill of 629.00 euros. So 12 artichokes – 54 euros, 5 Mozz Bufala – 60 euros, 2 plates of Mortadella – 36 euros, 2 plates of prosciuto – 36 euros, 2xAntipasto Terr – 36 euros. In addition, a salata mista which was never supplied.

    This guy is an excellent rip-off artist. Don’t go there. Tell your friends not to go there – and even your enemies. We tried to negotiate the price down and we got a pathetic reduction of 50 euros. I should have forced the carabinieri to come and take a look. If anyone can tell me who to speak to, I may do so yet.

  4. […] quando il turista americano in vacanza a Roma con la famigliola ti racconta la ********* nel blog, magari commentando proprio “The anti-scam guide to italian restaurants” di Dissapore. E’ capitato con Mark R., che da […]

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