Restaurants in Italy: Does Service Matter? (Part 1)

I have had ups and downs with restaurants in Italy. In this series, I will just tell you about the downs. Unfortunately, negative experiences tend to be more memorable than positive ones. While I have never had disappointing food in Italian restaurants, I am often let down by the slow and rude service. Sometimes I do not mind at all because I know good service is a luxury in Italy, other times the service is just unacceptable and makes me think: “Is it because I am an Asian?”


Venice

A random touristy restaurant (August 2016)
2016_0819_22544800
The restaurant was on a narrow street like this one.

I often tell myself to avoid touristy restaurants at all cost. Yet, when you travel with your parents, you cannot be fussy and ask them to go extra miles for a high-ranking restaurant at a certain time. They eat when they want. Near dinner time, I and my parents found a restaurant with good reviews but it was not yet open so we went to a mid-dining restaurant near our hotel instead. The staff welcomed us with friendly smiles. We were not very hungry but it was dinner time so we just ordered water, some salad and a pizza. Suddenly, our waiter became cold and asked us “That’s it?”. Despite wearing formal clothing and looking sharp, he acted like a child not getting what he wanted. He seasoned our salad with his annoyance. We could not approve such attitude so we asked to take away all the food, paid, and just left the restaurant.

A lesson to be learned: Avoid touristy restaurants at all cost.

Where to go instead in Venice: Taverna Al Remer (live music at nights), Il Ridotto (reservations essential).

Lucca

La Buca di Sant’Antonio (March 2017)

 

File 07-05-2017, 21 50 57.jpeg
The front of Buca di S. Antonio

This restaurant is in the Michelin guide. We came here for lunch but did not get a table. We anticipated this because we did not make a reservation and it was on Saturday or Sunday. What we did not expect was the attitude of the restaurant staff. As soon as she knew we did not make a reservation, she immediately said the restaurant was full bluntly and cold-heartedly. She did not even offer us to come back later or another time. Fine! We would not come back anyway.

A lesson to be learned: If you really want to eat in a Michelin restaurant, make sure to make a reservation.

 

Pizzeria Rusticanella 2 (March 2017)
File 07-05-2017, 21 57 29.jpeg
“Lucca’s mentality is walled and closed” – said Cleo Cantone, the Guardian

 

After being turned away by La Buca di Sant’Antonio, we went to Pizzeria Rusticanella 2, a small and local restaurant nearby. The restaurant was almost empty when we arrived. What a good sign, I thought! Like always, I politely asked in Italian if they had a table for 2. The staff behind the bar simply shook his head. Before leaving the restaurant, we saw many empty tables without any “reservation” signs. How absurd! Would you make a reservation at a pizzeria or a small trattoria? So two refusals in a row.
I have recently found out that “Lucca’s mentality is walled and closed“, according to Cleo Cantone in her writing in the Guardian. That explains a lot.

Another lesson to be learned: While in Lucca, go for cheap eats or pack your own lunch.

Where to go instead in Lucca: La Tana del Boia.

 

Are those restaurants in Venice and Lucca the only examples of unfair service? Wait for part 2. The next part will be about restaurants in Florence and Rome.


Italian food is delicious, and it is one of the best cuisines in the world but is it so good that those restaurants can get away with their terrible service and the lack of ethics? Personally, even if the food is tasty, I will not come back to the restaurants that gave me bad impressions. There are plenty of fish in the sea after all. And guess what? I can cook too.

What do you think about restaurant service in Italy? Can you share with us your worst dining experience in Italy or anywhere else? If you are Asians travelling in Italy, have you been in a similar situation? 

 

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34 thoughts on “Restaurants in Italy: Does Service Matter? (Part 1)

  1. Sorry to hear that you had such bad experience in Italy 😦 The pizzeria in Lucca sounds really “bitchy”. Although they somehow score a spot in the Michelin Guide, they should not treat customers like that. I think if they continue like that, they don’t need any reservation at all 🙂
    Lucky for me, I did not have any negative experience with Italian restaurants during my trips. Most of the restaurants I tried are quite good, especially in Emilia-Romagna. They serve great foods and I must say am really surprised by their good services. If I were there again, I would love to try the Best Restaurant in the World in Modena 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your comment! I heard that Bologna in Emilia-Romagna has a high population of intellectual people so maybe they are more well-mannered up there. I am going to mention Osteria Francescana in my my next post actually. 🙂

      Like

  2. Hmmm, I hope it’s not because of the “Asian” factor. I actually had a similar issue in Denmark where I was treated as pretty much invisible (even though I was waiting at the line to be seated and the restaurant was pretty empty) and I ended up leaving. Yet, I still love Denmark to bits!! I hope it’s not because we are Asian, but I can appreciate that we are perceived as having a language barrier, cultural barriers and just generally “too hard” basket. Thank god I’m not too fussed about restaurants when I travel so I just go where the service and food are equally matched. I must say, Japan is excellent for service quality…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I hope so too because the service really affects my appetite. 😛 Bad service is pretty common in Italy, and Italian people can be quite extreme – sometimes extremely friendly, sometimes incredibly rude. The positive side of it is that I have gained a higher level of EQ since I moved to Italy ahah. 😛 I hope your experience in Denmark won’t happen again. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. From my experience with the Danes, I don’t think they are that rude. The next time you should wave hands or make some gestures to grab their attention (or even shout Hey!) 🙂 Don’t be too polite! I don’t think they tried to ignore you, but rather they thought you are still looking around. All of them are fluent in English so language barrier will never be a problem. The same goes for many places in Germany. If you don’t ask, you won’t get a seat.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. Some are nice, some are even worse than in Italy 🙂 If you look not like a potential customer (or you do not belong to a specific category), you might receive an eye-roll (at the very least), be completely ignored, or be turned away at the entrance. They don’t mind to express discontent to your face.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sorry to hear you went through this 😦 it’s disheartening to read this from a country I love so much but at the same time it’s good to be aware. I’ve not had in restaurants so far but in places yes people sometimes avoid “Asians” as if we all are terrorists. In Palermo, I was finding the way and this lady wouldn’t come near me. Then when I switched to Italian she quickly told me the way and left!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for sharing your experiene! I love Italy too but I really cannot ignore its faults. Like you said, people should be aware of the Italian attitudes. Maybe this will help them deal with potential cultural shocks.

      The worst thing was that I did speak Italian when I came into the restaurants but still got turned away. I felt like even though I tried to mingle with the Italians, I was still not welcomed in their “prestigious” restaurants.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. You know what? In those “prestigious” restaurants the problem is not even being a foreigner: they usually just look at potential customers in a condescending way and evaluate just with a look if the person has lots of money or not.

      Lately there has been a lot of talk about these “award-winning restaurants” and it came out that lots of them are basically a fraud (they basically pay for gaining the so-called “stars”). I don’t know which ones are a fraud, I never delved deeper into the matter, but I recommend you to read Valerio Visintin’s blog, for example, to have honest reviews (he writes “Mangiare a Milano” for the Corriere).

      Liked by 3 people

    3. Thanks for letting me know, Sara! Does Valerio Visintin write in English too?

      It is totally unethical to discriminate customers like that. After all, customers are the ones who pay for the service, not vice versa. Ethics is absolutely important in business. Although money is not everything, some people seem to think so. 😦

      The truth is always the truth. I hope one day people will find out about the fake restaurants and stop paying excessively to dine there.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, I forgot!
    Concerning Lucca…I don’t remember having a bad experience in there, but I recall having a treatment like the one you mentioned in Arezzo. My classmates and me were on a school trip and once we showed up at the restaurant, they sent us away even if we had a reservation. They probably saw we were young and presumed we didn’t have much money to spend. Too bad there wasn’t Tripadvisor at the time 😠

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sorry to hear that! It is totally unfair since you did make a reservation. I totally know how it feels to be turned away due to unprofessional reasons. While restaurants are public spaces, they are private businesses so I do not know how this problem can be solved. But it does not feel good not being welcome in a public place.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. So sorry you experienced this in Italian restaurants, but if I have to give my honest opinion, I don’t think this happened because you are Asian, but because you were a tourist. As Manja said above, tourists are (sadly) considered like people they can take advantage of. This is a way of thinking which is especially popular among restaurant owners in the big tourist destinations where they have huge touristic flows all over the year and so they are not worried to lose a client if they treat him/her badly. They know they will have new customers anyway. They treated me badly and tried to scam me as well in places like Rome, just to give you an example, even if I’m Italian. The thing is that, as Italians, we know the language and we can defend ourselves in a better way…if they see you are a foreigner, they probably think they have more chances to succeed when trying to scam you, assuming you don’t know the language.

    The attitude changes dramatically in places which are not as famous as the ones mentioned. You might experience some skepticism in some remote locations, but for the rest they have all the interest in treating you in a good way in order to get brilliant reviews.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! It is terrible that even Italians get scammed by Italians. But you are right! It is all like that in famous attractions. I am sure similar things happen in Vietnam too.

      At first, I would like to think like you – that it is not because I am Asian. However, after some observations in Florence and Rome, I have started to change my mind. I will share with you in my next post those observations.

      And you are absolutely right that many touristy restaurants do not care about reviews at all. That makes me think how long more can they get away with their unfair treatment of customers? How many more one-time customers can they get? And how much does it affect the beautiful representation of the Italian people?

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Unfortunately scamming is common among restaurant- and hotel owners 😕 I guess it’s some sort of vicious circle: they have to pay a huge amount of taxes and so they try to take advantage of customers to gain more money. But I bet some of them would do that anyway, even if taxes were lower * sigh * I did notice, though, that this approach is MUCH more common in the big touristic spots. But you’re right, this is a awful publicity for Italy.

      I see and I’m so sorry if this happened to you because of your heritage 😦 I will surely read your next entry with great interest and attention.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. This reminds me of an article by a tourist after his visit to Vietnam. He said he would never come back to my country due to scamming. 😦

      Thank you Sara for reading and understanding!

      I don’t want to be harsh on Italians because I truly love the country but two recent experiences in Rome really disturbed me.

      Liked by 1 person

    4. Don’t worry I don’t take offence, you’re right to speak up if something bothered you! Unfortunately stupid people are everywhere, also among Italians…and I’m well aware that we have a lot of flaws, btw!
      You know, with time I’ve learnt that there might be some traits which are typical of a specific people and we can love or hate those traits, but for the rest we just have to analyze single behaviours of the inviduals and make a distinction between good and stupid persons (that can be literally everywhere in the world).

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I really mind that you had bad experiences when in Italy. But you’re rigth, where I live we, the locals, pay less than the tourists. It’s like a “fidelity bonus”. Hoping that your next trip in Italy will be better! And if you will come near Assisi, in Umbria, I could help you about wich place is the best 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for telling us about the “fidelity bonus”. I find that interesting because I have never heard about it outside of Italy. It must be an Italian thing I guess?

      And I hope so too because I am staying in Italy for a couple more months. I was in Assisi last October and absolutely in love with the city and also the region Umbria. I would love to come back to Umbria another time.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Oh, it’s terrible to hear that you have had so many bad experiences that you are doing a series, but I’m glad that you’re doing it because the whole world needs to know what to avoid.

    I don’t have a particular incident to report, but I’ve been learning what tourist industry means here in Italy: get as much from an individual as possible. Also, hang a sign to the toilet door that it’s out of order so that the entire busload of people will not be using your facilities without ordering anything! Direct all people to the tables for coffee so that you can charge 5 times the normal price or more compared to coffee by the bar, and then argue and gesticulate and point to the hidden price list! The tourist has zero chance of winning. In this they remind me of Romanians. When I was there, my bills always had a mysterious line of something I didn’t order, and then it was impossible to win the argument. They wore me down with their river of words until I paid.

    That said, I’m not a fan of tourists either.

    But I’m especially sad that you have bad experiences due to being Asian. This makes me soooooooooooo angry. It reminds me of many restaurants on the coast in my Slovenia that treat Italian guests better and with priority compared to Slovenians. Because they order more and tip better, no doubt.

    I wish you only the good food and smiling service from now on. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your support and for sharing what you have learned. I have heard many times about the mysterious charges. I get them too, sometimes for the bread, sometimes for the tables, so I always check my bills carefully. But you are right! The Italians are always dominant in the argument. They do not talk with senses.
      I know that in touristic areas, it is common that tourists get ripped off but the case of Italy is really extreme in my opinion.
      That sounds so nice in Slovenia. I would love to visit your Slovenia one day. 🙂 Thanks again for your understanding and wishes! I feel a lot better now. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    2. You’re welcome, Vy! Just please read my comment again, maybe I wasn’t clear: the mysterious line of something I didn’t order often happened in Romunia, not in Italy (even though – truth be told – here in Italy it’s amore who pays usually by the bar). And in Slovenia they are not nice: they prefer Italians to Slovenians because they order more and tip better instead of treating all guests the same! But it’s not everywhere like this. Certainly welcome to beautiful Slovenia! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Oh I am so sorry! I read your comment twice but still missed your point. It must be me overthinking about the Romans and Italians in general. 😛 I did not know that those things happen in Romania too because your description is so similar to my experience in Italy.

      You are right! It is not fair to treat guests differently! I was being narrowed-minded and thought only about the fact that Slovenians were nice to foreigners. Now that I think from your perspective, it is not nice at all! Thanks for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

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