What You Should Know Before Eating Out In Rome

Be Careful In Restaurants

If you intend eating out in Rome, become familiar with the charges that you may incur when eating out in certain restaurants and eateries.

Eating Out In RomeMany people visit Rome and obviously like to eat out but are not familiar with the many different charges they may be required to pay for the little extras they have, which they think are free!

This page explains a few of the more common charges in restaurants in Rome and what you need to be aware of, before you sit down for your meal.


Water: If you want water with your meal, you will be charged for it. If you ask for tap water “acqua dal rubinetto,”, don’t be surprised if you get a funny look and don’t be disappointed if you don’t receive it quickly or not at all!

Bread: The ‘Pane e coperto’ Charge: This is a bread charge that is placed on bills throughout Italy. However, Rome is meant to have introduced a law to stop this charge being placed on the bill, whether or not restaurant owners actually abide by this law is debatable!

Antipasto: Many restaurants throughout Italy charge for Antipasto, despite whether you ordered it. If you didn’t order it and the waiter/waitress brings it to you and you then eat it, you will be charged. It isn’t a free gift and if you don’t want it, tell them or ask if it is free before you eat it!

If you do order Antipasto, be very specific in what you would like and be sure the waiter/waitress listens. Don’t let them choose what type they bring you because if you do so, they will probably bring you the most expensive and the largest quantities. If you only want a small quantity, tell them.

Digestivo (After Meal Drink): This is the little drink (usually a shot or liquor) that many restaurants offer after your meal as a thank you. However, some restaurants will actually charge you for this and the best way to judge whether it is FREE or not is like this:

If the waiter/waitress brings you the drinks before you have paid your bill, you may be charged, ask if it is FREE! If they bring you the drinks after you have paid the bill, it is more likely to be a token of their appreciation and FREE, as a thank you for your custom.

Service Charge

Several restaurants in Rome still add a service charge to the bill and if they do, they should by law display the charge on their menus or somewhere that you can see it prior to ordering. If you are wondering if a service charge will be added, check on the menu and if it is not displayed, ask. If it is not displayed anywhere prior to you ordering and then it appears on your bill, (it will say ‘servizio’), ask them to remove it.

Asking For The Bill

‘il conto per favore’ means ‘the bill please’ which is fine but if you are in a restaurant and have had several items, it is best to get an itemised bill to check that  you have only been charged for the things you have had and nothing else! The way to ask for an itemised bill is: ‘il conto dettagliato’.

Avoid The Sit Down Charge When Eating Out In Rome

When you are in Rome, you will see a lot of people standing up at the bar or counter drinking their coffee and there is a very good reason for this. If you sit down in any bar (coffee shop or a place that we would know as a café) to drink or eat, you will pay more for the privilege! Not many tourists know this but if you just want a coffee and want to pay the minimum cost for your coffee, avoid sitting down. Once you sit down, the price of your bill will increase by double or even triple. The price of a coffee in Rome is capped and there is a maximum price that cafes can charge for a standard coffee being drank standing at the bar. If you do fancy resting your feet for a while, why not buy a coffee to takeaway and sit on the steps in one of the Piazzas and the views will be much nicer than inside the café!

If you do want to sit inside and would like to know what the price will be if you choose to sit, here is a quick tip on how to do so.

When you enter the bar/café do not sit down immediately, simply walk up to the counter and take a look at the price board. On the price board, you should see words and two price columns, one is for standing and one is for sitting. The words you will see are ‘banco” “tavolo’. ‘Banco’ is the price for standing and ‘Tavolo’ is the price for sitting.

Avoid Buying Food And Drink From Stalls

Buying food and drink from stalls outside or close to the attractions in Rome will result in you paying a fortune. If you want a snack or a drink, just have a quick stroll away from the main attractions and tourist spots and find a little supermarket which will be much cheaper.

Free Buffets

Many bars in cities throughout Italy offer FREE buffets to customers who buy drinks and in Rome, many bars do the same. The city has a large number of bars who offer the FREE buffets but in Trastevere there are a large number such as Friends Cafè and Freni & Frizioni. The free buffets in the bars in Rome provide you with a good option to have a nice drink as well as a few nibbles at the same time at no extra cost. It is also a good way to have a bite to eat if you are a little peckish as you make your way around the city seeing the sights and attractions.

Becoming familiar with the charges that you may incur when eating out in Rome, will save you a lot of time, stress and money.