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Paying the Restaurant Bill

Pauline Kenny

Remember, the bill is not given to you unless you ask for it. Do not be in a rush to leave. It sometimes takes them awhile to calculate the bill and get it to you. These days most bills are handwritten on pre-printed forms, like in this picture. You can easily go over the bill to see if you have been charged correctly. (The only time we have ever found an error  was in our favor and it took a long time to convince the waiter that he had not charged us enough!)

There is usually a cover charge (pane e coperto). This is usually listed on the menu. If the tip is included, it will be listed on the menu (e.g. "servizio 10%"). If it is not listed on the menu or on the bill, I add a 5 - 10% tip. Usually service is NOT included.

Note added June 2007: There have been many discussions on the message board about tipping. Many say that tips are not expected and you can just leave some small change. My experience was that some restaurants added a 10% service charge, so when it was not added, I tipped that amount. Read our message board FAQ - How Much Should I Tip?

Example Restaurant Bill - Formal

This is a picture of our bill from a Sunday lunch in September 2002 at Ristorante Daniela in San Casciano dei Bagni, in southern Tuscany. You can see that we were charged for:

1 vino - wine

1 acqua minerale - water

1 antipasti - Crostini

1 primi - Pauline's pasta

1 zuppe - Steve's soup

2 secondi - Steve's swordfish, Pauline's grilled porcini

2 dolci - gelato

2 caffe - coffees

The 10% service (tip) is added to the bill. The total for two came to 74.25 euro. This is a more expensive restaurant - but worth every penny!

There was no cover charge for this meal, but usually there is. You must take the receipt and keep it. This is Italian law. You must be able to prove that you received a receipt.

So, that was it - a fabulous meal! See our photos of this meal and a copy of the exact menu (this was a completely documented experience).

Italy, Ristorante Daniela, San Casciano dei Bagni. 09/02

See our Sunday Lunch at Ristorante Daniela Photo Album.

Example Restaurant Bill - Informal

Some restaurants give you a less formal bill. This is the bill from our lunch at Le Logge in Siena in June 2000. The price is not even on the bill. You take this piece of paper and go to the counter where the owner of the restaurant is "holding court". He takes it, figures it all out, tells you the price.

But, you can still figure it out. On this bill we were charged for:

2 liters water (naturale)

2 glasses of white wine

2 bruschetta pomodoro

1 risotto

1 potatoes

Fungi Porcini for 2 (400gms)

2 coffee

The total came to 145,000 lire (plus 10,000 left on table) - about $75 - very expensive, but very good. The porcini was the best I have ever had.

Another fabulous meal for Steve and Pauline! See our photos of this meal and a copy of the exact menu (this was a completely documented experience).

This is an older example, so the prices are in lire. They would be in euro now.

Tuscany, Siena. Le Logge bill. 06/00

Tipping in Restaurants

You will hear many opinions on this, but this is what we do. If the menu does not say that service is included or the bill does not indicate this, then we leave a 10% tip. We always tip in restaurants in Italy.

Many people say you are not supposed to tip - just leave a few small coins.

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