Rome, and most European cities, have very charming sidewalk coffee bars and cafes.  Locals use them a lot.  On our very first trip to Europe in 1993 we decided we would become a local.  Along the Via Veneto is a famous place called the Cafe de Paris.  It’s a small coffee and snack place with a stand-up coffee bar and cute tables along the Veneto that’s been in many Italian movies over the last century.  Good looking pastries and authentic Italian coffee, including espresso.  We wonder in trying not to look like tourists, and point out 2 pasties for our pleasure.  And we order 2 cappucinos to wash them down with.  Can’t quite get into the espresso habit just yet.

The guy behind the bar, realizing we are tourists, says “sit, sit, we bring it to you.”  Obviously the right thing to do so we can enjoy the ambiance and watch the passers-by.  Besides we have been walking a lot already and are getting tired.  We choose a nice table.  A waiter, of sorts, brings our treats and the bill.  Yikes.  How did 2 pastries and 2 cappucinos cost $26. And it’s 1993!  Oh well we’re on vacation so I go back inside to pay the bill.  For some reason I look into the pastry display case and see posted prices of less than half of what we paid.  I also see cappucino prices on the wall behind the bar.  Again, half.  What gives here?  Wish I spoke Italian so I could figure this out, but off we go.

Later that day we are clear across Rome, having walked another 5 miles.  It’s mid-afternoon and we need another small snack and maybe this time an espresso.  We’re getting adventurous.  Another small cafe looks inviting and we go in.  Again we order 2 small somethings and 2 espressos.  Again the guy behind the counter says “sit, sit, we bring to you.”  We choose a cute table and are thankful to be off our feet.  Here comes the treats and the bill.  Wow, seems high again, so in I go to checkout the counter prices.  Sure enough, half.  What gives here and how dumb are we.  Even dumber that I thought since I notice the bill not only includes the cost of the food, but 2 other items noted in Italian.  Seems like we also pay for “cover” and for “service”.  That means we pay to use the table, pay to get things served to us, and pay twice the stand-up prices for everything.  We finally figured it out, and it only took us twice!

Maybe we need to try harder to be “locals.”  So buyer beware, and never try to rest your weary body in a sidewalk cafe.

Written on August 21st, 2009 , Anicdotes, Food&Drink, Travel Tips

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