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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Pane e Coperto

“Know before you go.”  “Let the buyer beware.”  “When in Rome…” all spring to mind when considering the Italian restaurant practice of “Pane e Coperto”, literally “Bread and Tableware”.

This summer, foreign jaws are dropping all over the Italian peninsula as foreigners are coming to learn that they will be expected to pay a cover charge of sorts for the privilege of dining in an Italian ristorante, trattoria, or osteria.  We met an older couple in Rome who were sputtering and fuming with indignation.

“But we didn’t eat any bread!” the man insisted to their Italian waiter.

“It doesn’t matter, it is a standard charge,” the waiter explained.

“But we never even ordered any bread!” the wife said in exasperation.

While the waiter retreated without relenting, Benedetto inserted himself into the couple’s confusion and explained the process.  Most restaurants charge the “Pane e Coperto”, a neglible amount in the grand scheme of things, yet a shock if you’re not expecting it.  Our American 15-20% tip would be much, much more, and in Italy, a tip is not necessarily expected.  So you could really come out ahead.

“Thank you, thank you,” the couple enthused, sure that they were being ripped off until our very own Cultural Consultant stepped in.  “Now that we understand, we feel better.”

It’s a service charge that goes to the restaurant, not to the waiter.  The farther you dine from tourist sites, you may not even pay it at all, since some establishments are dropping it altogether.

Some.  So don’t count on it disappearing altogether.

When in doubt, always check the menu outside, before sitting down.  It should be listed near the bottom somewhere, if it’s expected.  Keep in mind that the “Pane e Coperto” is not optional.  But it’s a small price to pay to get an authentic Italian meal that’s sure to be molto buono!



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