Eating Out, Rome
I was starving and decided to eat dinner at a restaurant nearby the Trevi Fountain (mistake no.1). The guy at the front enthusiastically pushed me in (mistake no. 2) and I obliged. Lets just say that I ended up paying 93 euros (thats right 93 damn euros for one person) for the following:
-1 steak (66 euros) which was impossibly tough, full of fat and not even close to the medium rare i asked for;
- 1 bottle of still water;
- Two pieces of cold cold bread;
- a small plate of poorly fried potatoes and
- a clearly pre cooked, half frozen Tiramisu.
And the big F U that the establishment gave me, as a person travelling alone, was a small shot of very cheap limoncello, "compliments of the house".
I have so far been so disappointed with the attitude and dealings of Romans in general, but I didn't know the extent to which it is ok in this for people to rip off tourists (to the point of feeling like you are outright being thieved) who are injecting their hard earned money into their corrupt, sorry excuse of an economy. And this is all super ironic coming from a people who pride themselves on good catholic principles....
Not impressed and I don't think I will be eager to visit Rome any time soon, even if the city is so damn beautiful. You just feel that the current crop of Romans are just leeching off the glory of the past.
Unique Suggestions: Ask what everything costs before you order.
Don't accept anything that you do not want.
Don't eat near or close by to tourist infested areas, no matter how hungry you are.
Don't be fooled by enthusiastic or overly kind waiters. They just want to mask the thievery they will inevitably commit.
Don't buy the overpriced and horrible steak.
Fun Alternatives: Best meal I had in Rome was for 10 euros. Large pizza at a small shop in the middle of nowhere. Stay as far away from major areas as possible. Find the hidden gem and avoid the hyper expensive traps that are so easy to fall into.
If you go down the long road in front of St Peter, direction Catel Sant'Angelo, (via della conciliazione) there is a restaurant called Don chichote was Universal bar) (but you cannot see the name from the street) that is just legal theft. At noon, we had (we were 4) 2 salads, one 1/2 chicken, 1 omelet, some bread, 3 diet cokes and 2 beers. 95€ !!!!! the coke were 6 € each ! and we were eating on the street, no special thing.
It's just a scam !
Fun Alternatives: Just don't stop , go in another small street and eat there.
When it's time to eat and you've been taking in the main attractions of Rome, do yourself a favor and take a short walk to a small family run trattoria/cafe. When we were visiting the Vatican Museum for hours and we were getting hungry we ate at the first place we came to upon our exit. We broke my decree "Do Not Eat At The Tourist Traps". It wasn't bad food, but you can tell by my picture they were ready for the horde of tourists. It was expensive and we felt like we were in a cattle call.
Fun Alternatives: Take a few minutes to look around, you will find a nice small family run cafe close by in Rome.
If the waiter asks if you would like water, be aware that it will most likely be a whole bottle of mineral water and it will come up on your bill for 3 euro or so. Also, I was charged separately for bread with a meal and a "service charge". I was never certain whether the "service charge" constituted a tip for the server so I tipped anyway.... if the service warranted and I found it always did.
...It's not worth the 9 euro charge. The fee includes an audio guide in English, which you'll need if you don't read Italian. You'll see what wheat looks like on the stalk, what it looks like harvested and ground. You'll see some huge pasta-making machines and dozen of photos of Italian celebreties eating spaghetti. Pretty mundane.
I was wondering how they could afford to keep the place open when I finally realized that it was the pasta industry that was obviously fronting the place. The exhibits included "documentation," suggesting that pasta could solve world food problems.
Unique Suggestions: If you're still interested anyway, the Museum is located near the Trevi Fountain. As you're facing the fountain, turn right and walk down Via Lavatore, take the first right toward Piazza Scanderbeg, the museum is on the left. One bonus is, kids, accompanied by both parents are only 1 euro. Gee, that makes it (only) 19 euros for 3 people!
Fun Alternatives: Why not walk down Via del Governo Vecchio and nearby streets and poke your head into the various shops. Much more fun and doesn't cost anything! Or take the kids to the Villa Borghese and let 'em run around for an hour or two.
Eating outside is always more expensive in Italy: that's not a tourist trap, it's just a fact.
Equally, prices will be higher near tourist attractions, of course. One expects that.
But do watch out for those who deliberately inflate. I was caught like this in Piazza S.M. in Trastevere.
I'd been to the cafe in the photo four years ago and eaten inside: that was fine. This time we sat outside (and yes, I knew it would be more expensive). When I asked for the bill, we didn't get a written one (which I believe is illegal anyway) and it was substantially higher than I expected (by about 3 euros).
When I queried the amount, the waiter just said 'service'. I'm pretty sure it was too much (the lack of a written bill is the give-away) but my Italian isn't up to an argument.
I shan't be going there again though.
Unique Suggestions: Limit what you order to drinks (coffee/chocolate/beer). Order anything else and you can expect prices to be inflated.
Fun Alternatives: Find somewhere else to eat: the side-streets are full of good cafes/bars/pizzeria etc.
In my case, this experience underlined what I already knew, so more fool me for doing it!
We had visited the magnificent Santa Maria Maggiore and felt a little peckish and needed a loo visit, so went to the cafe of "The Old Station" pub and cafe. We're too old for the disco and just wanted a sandwich and a cold drink each.
The loo at the cafe was disgusting and didn't have any toilet paper or hand drying facilities.
We went inside and looked at the choices, gave an order for 3 rounds of sandwiches and 2 cold drinks and checked the price - about 2 Euro for each sandwich and about 2 Euro for each drink. We went outside and the waiter followed us with our tray load.
After we finished we asked for the bill. The waiter had to ask us what we had consumed as he had no idea and then gave us the bill - 21.40 Euro. I got angry that I had been so overcharged and then they pointed out the almost illegible sign on the wall listing the prices for stand up inside and/or take away and the separate price for eating at the tables on the footpath. I refused to pay the total bill and would have given 15 Euro and walked away, but didn't have a 5 Euro note, so I left 20 Euro, yelled that they are robbers and succeeded in getting at least one group to avoid their overcharging and left.
The waiter chased after us and demanded the remaining 1.40 Euro - needless to say I refused. We both yelled at each other and he actually tried to assault me (another staff member restrained him).
PLEASE AVOID OLD STATION CAFE.
Unique Suggestions: Eat in the side streets where the service and food are much better and the prices at least half what you'll pay in the piazzas.
First evening, after I paid 88,00 euros for a simple dinner, my weiter told me, "food is expensive here but the cloths is cheap". Let me tell you what cost me so much in a simple trattoria; grilled meat for two, gnocchi with cheese for one, half liter of red wine, bottle of water and one caffee. I'll be polite and say, it was a robbery.
Day after day, four in a row, we went in a different restaurants and the food was too expensive and not good at all. The last day of our staying we had a simple lunch in one restaurant nearby Piazza della Spagna; seafood salate for two, glass of white wine for each and one coffee and the price was 47,00 euros. Just amazing!
Unique Suggestions: When travelling around, especially in Italy, I like to have good food and service. More or less I never look at the price list because complete lunch with drink and coffee, in whole of Italy, costs between 20-40 euros, with exeption of top class restaurants. Restaurants in Lombardy are more expensive than those in Veneto, restaurants in Veneto are more expensive than those in Emilia Romagna or Tuscany, so those in southern part of the country should be even less expensive. Rome, however, has the most expensive restaurants in Italy which offers food of law quality.
Most of the tourists avoid restaurants eating sandwiches out on the streets or ordering one pizza for two when in restaurants.
We stopped at a restaurant on via sistina and were definitly scammed. We stopped to read the menu and the owner came to talk and invited us in. He was a big man, very jolly seeming, swore to us his wife made the pasta (doubtful). The food was somewhere below mediocre. Our bill was supposed to be 22 euros based on the menu including the cover charge but the total was 33 because of a 4 euro gratuity automatically added and an increase in the price of the salad. my husband had ordered a salad and the man came back and asked if he wanted the salad plain or with mozzarella (after taking the menu). It turned out the salad with mozzerella was listed in a different part of the menu, on a different page from all the other salads and is an additional 6 euros. The salad was not even worth 4 euros much less 10. The couple across from us accepted the wine they were offered and were charged 50 euros for a crappy bottle they didn't even finish. Their faces said it all. If you are accosted by a large italian who swears his wife makes the pasta and says "if you don't like, you don't pay" move on.
We had a similar experience the night before where the owner greeted us on the street and gave us a spiel about why we should eat there. That time the food wasn't phenominal but it was decent solid food and we were honestly charged. Plus is was near our hotel so our aching feet approved. Still there is better food out there.
Unique Suggestions: Prepare to pay high dollar for mediocre at best food. I saw 2.50 euro for a candy bar at some wagons.
Fun Alternatives: Never eat at the little wagons outside the tourist areas if you can help it. Find a grocery store and go to the deli counter. Much better and cheaper food will be there. Especially for families in terms of water, snacks, etc. There is a good one right by the Colosseum that a grad student steered us toward when he saw us walking toward the vendor cart.
For real restaurants I would highly reccommend Mario's on villa del vite near the spanish steps and dar poeta pizzeria in the trastevere. We had fabulous food at great prices at both places. Avoid the bad food, you're in Italy and should eat right.
One of the biggest tourist traps I've seen are the outside tables at restaurants. A lot of restaurants will offer tables outside so you can sit and enjoy the lovely view of whichever monument you happen to be closest to. It is quite a lovely experience to have a glass of wine and a plate of pasta while looking at the Pantheon, watching all the tourists oooh and aaaah over the sights while you just sip your wine and enjoy your dinner. Then.....the check comes! You're astounded that the bill is so high. The restaurants double and sometimes triple the prices when you take a table outside. It is sooo outreagous to pay these kind of prices. Years ago, on my first trips to Rome with my husband, we had dinner outside by Piazza Barberini. I had spagetti and he had some meat dish (can't remember what). The dinner was great, the view was great, the service was so-so, the bill almost made us choke. It was 135 euros!!!! For a plate of spagetti and a meat dish that only included one side of veggies! We were astounded. We asked the waiter if the check was correct, he said it was. We asked him to explain why it was so much, he said "for the outside service, is more."
Unique Suggestions: If you want to eat at an outside restaurant to enjoy the view, by all means, do it. Just be prepared for an outreageous bill. As long as you are paying a premium for the seat, you might as well enjoy it. Order a bottle of wine and stay as long as you like. They won't get angry if you stay for hours, sipping wine and watching life in Rome. This is what you are paying for. Remember that Romans take very long lunches and dinners. They will sit for hours and catch up with friends and family. Meals can often last two or three hours. Just take your time and enjoy the view and the food.
Fun Alternatives: If you are on a budget or just simply cannot stomach paying that much per meal, there are things you can do. I always plan one nice, long meal per trip. The rest of the time is just food on the fly. I eat my large meal in the afternoon and a lighter meal at night. I will stop in at a local spot for the special of the day for lunch. Usually it is a three or four course meal with salad, veggie, meat and desert. At local spots (not the touristy restaurants) this will cost less than 10 euros and be quite good. Just follow the locals and order what they order. You will be amazed at the variety and quality of the food you will recieve. Also the portions are great. At night, I swing into a pizza stall and get my dinner to go. Fold your pizza in half and take it with you or stand by the counter and eat it there. Try to avoid the touristy places when it comes to food and you will save a lot of money and be happier with the food you will get.
DO NOT ORDER ANYTHING FROM A MENUE THATS SAYS (TOURIST MENUE) 1-OVERPRICE 2-FOOD IS BAD-ALSO THERE ARE 2 MENUES -1 FOR THE LOCALS 2-FOR THE TOURISTS-SO U WIL L BE TAKEN !IF U HAVE A ITALAIN FRIENDS -LET THEM ORDER FOR U !
Unique Suggestions: GO WERE THE LOCALS GO-STAY AWAY FROM ANY TOURIST AREA !!
Eating and drinking within a kilometer radius of the Vatican City will cost you dearly. You will either find the food highly disagreable or extremely expensive or both.
Plan your day.
Take some snacks with you that you can have with a coffee in the coffeeshop in the Vatican Museum.
Walking through the Vatican Museum can work up an appetite, and you will probably come out around lunch time. The easiest thing to do is to walk across the street to grab some grub, but DON'T!!! Those restaurants look appealing and convenient, but they are all EXTREMELY overpriced and poor in quality, as well. I gave in to their convenience and found myself eating a tiny piece of expensive, COLD lasagna! Go the distance! Venture away from this dreaded tourist trap and find better food for a fraction of the cost!
Unique Suggestions: If you cannot wait or walk to eat and you must go to these restaurants, then just get something small and cheap to hold you over until you can get to a cheaper restaurant with better food!
If it is too good to be true, it is. Every time I was fooled by one of those "LUNCH SPECIAL" signs that you see on little places that are near major tourist attractions (eg, the Colosseum), I was disappointed. The food was not worthy of the country it was in. You will have your best meal of your life in Italy... if you are lucky enough to avoid these places.
Unique Suggestions: Understand a cheap meal is what it is, a cheap meal. Don't expect it to taste good.
Fun Alternatives: See if you can look at some meals being served at the restaurant you are considering. Most Italian food looks or smells good if it IS good. It's not like Chinese, for example, where it is hard to tell. If a pizza looks rubbery, it probably is.
Unless you are extremely thirsty, don't buy water or soda from street vendors, who charge two to three times as much than a local grocery. Soda will be more expensive anywhere in Rome, but you can get a liter of bottled evian for 1,10 to 1,80 Euro in a local grocery. FYI: In restaurants wine costs the same as bottled water. And of course, you have fountains all over Rome, so how can you ever be thirsty?? :)