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  • Writer's pictureLarry Lustig

Will That Be All?

Dining out in Italy really is different. Here's a trick to help you get out of the restaurant.

Three gentlemen sit around a wine-littered table outside a small restaurant in a square in Italy.
At the restaurant Borgò in Campiglia Marittima

Dining out in Italy is a different experience from your typical restaurant meal. From the fact that most people make reservations to the lengthy inquiry before ordering ("What's fresh?" "Where are the mushrooms from?"), customs are different.

One difference is that (outside of tourist areas) you'll never be offered the check in Italy. Indeed, any suggestion at all that you might have come to the end of the meal and should think about leaving is regarded as rude. Phrases you won't hear are "Will that be all?" or "Can I get you anything else?" About the closest you'll get is the question "Do you have everything you need?"

Most restaurants in Italy don't plan on "turning" their tables during a meal. In other words, at dinner time, each table will seat only one party from the time of their reservation to whatever time they decide to leave. When you call for a reservation the proprietor might decline your requested time and suggest a different one, but it's not because they're looking to "slot you in" to a table that they expect to be free after another party has sat there. Rather, they're looking to spread out the arrivals between, say, 8 and 9:30 pm so that the kitchen doesn't get all the orders at the same time.

Restaurateurs take this notion of hospitality very seriously. There have been many nights I've been laughing away with friends in restaurants where we were the last people there, without realizing that it was long after the stated closing time. Not a word was said. One couple on a Code in a Castle program waited close to an hour after they finished their meal in a five table restaurant before finally asking the owner for the check.

So if you've finished your meal at a restaurant in Italy don't expect a shove out the door, or even a hint. Feel free to linger over coffee or a grappa and, when you're ready, wave to the owner and ask for Il conto, per favore.

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