There are many scams in Italy, especially in Rome and usually involving tourists. While Rome is a beautiful city with many wonderful people, there are too many who ruin it for the rest. My post on Avoiding Scams was written to inform tourists who visit Italy about the many scams that one might encounter. When I received a comment on it from someone seeking help after being scammed, I replied with all the advice I could gather and decided to write his story in order to spread awareness. This is Mark’s story.
Scammed at Ristorante i 12 Apostoli in Rome
Piazza S.S. Apostoli, 52/52a – 00187 – Rome Tel: 066 9925442 http://www.12apostoli.net
Please note: This article refers specifically to the restaurant located in Rome at the above address. There are other restaurants with the same name in other cities in Italy that are not affiliated in any way with this one in Rome.
“My wife and I have been to other world capitals and previously visited Rome on our honeymoon in 1990. Although we are a modest family from the U.S., to celebrate our anniversary, we have returned to Roma with our three children, 19, 17, and 12. We are here for two weeks and staying in an apartment in the Quirinal District. We have had many wonderful meals during the past week and the Romans have been absolutely wonderful to us.
On July 30th, we were looking for a restaurant we had been recommended, but when we arrived, they were closed, so we continued down the street and came upon a restaurant with a sidewalk café, Ristorante i XII Apoltoli (Piazza Santi Apostoli, 52 – Rome).
The proprietor made gestures and called us off the street, promising great food and a ‘discount’ on the wine. We were skeptical because we generally don’t respond to such seductions but we were hungry and the sky looked threatening that night.
The proprietor was a slight young man with dark thin hair. He saw our hesitancy at his proposal as my wife perused the menu. So, he charmingly took me by the arm and led me to a table of other guests and asked, them, ‘How is the food so far?’, and they said, ‘So far so good.’ But it looked to be early in their meal. With that, he said to them, ‘Perfect, Limoncello for the table!’, as a reward for their reference. I took that as a joke and succumbed to conviviality.
We were seated in an elevated and enclosed area within the restaurant with no access to other guests, although the cigarette smoke was thick. The waiter, a heavy-set man, with little food or service knowledge, immediately began to push the ‘fish soup’. He said it was great and we should order it as a starter for 5. As we always eat family style, to enjoy lots of different tastes, we agreed but asked for a serving for ‘3’. At no time did he ever mention the price. I must say, that based upon the other prices on the menu, we were not really concerned, because we have trusted waiters this way in other restaurants and had great success.
Soon he brought us a bottle of water and a bottle of ‘house wine’ that was white, but barely chilled.
Then came the soup. It was wonderful…filled with prawns, mussels, calamari, and parts of a cut up lobster. We feasted on the soup and it was delicious.
While we were eating, he came to ask about the next course and promoted a special pasta dish, and we agreed to allow him to bring it as we were now in his confidence. He later brought us 2 plates of anything-but-special pasta that had some seafood sauce on top. While it was edible, it was generally the same as the soup and showed that he really had no idea how to mix dishes to enhance a dining experience.
At this point, he began to push more courses and wine, (the second bottle was warm, even after the complaint was registered on the first.) It was now clear to us that he would continue to try to bring us anything and everything unless we held him off.
So our meal consisted of the soup for three, 2 pasta dishes and 2 bottles of house wine.
We politely asked for ‘il conto’ and promptly received it. I’ll note that he looked a bit tentative when bringing it to the table. He set it down in front of me, said, ‘And this does not include my service.’, and then hovered over me as I reviewed it in shock!
It was €370, including €240 for the fish soup for three, excessive prices for the 2 pastas and each bottle of wine and €40 for tax.
After the initial shock, I stated that the bill seemed quite high and asked, ‘Why tax?’ He said, ‘We always charge tax.’ Then, surprisingly, he grabbed the check from my hand, and marked off, €20, which reduced the total to €350, and returned it to me.
Although I have never questioned the total price of a bill in a restaurant, I still perceived his gesture as unusual, and believing that the proprietor should know what was going on, asked to speak with the manager.
Soon he arrived at the table, with an attitude, but claimed to know nothing about what was going on. He asked, ‘How many lobsters were in the soup?’ I said, ‘One!’, and he left. He returned a few minutes later and crossed off the 350 and wrote across the check, 300. He said, ‘This is the best that I can do, and you will have to pay cash, no credit cards at this price.’ It was clear that there was going to be no more discussion and not wanting a confrontation in front of my children, I reluctantly paid him €300 for the most expensive Roman dinner in my life.
He took the money and returned with a glass of grappa and a replacement check that looked entirely different. It was a different form, that looked foreign to me. It was some kind of printed form, with handwritten entries but surprisingly did not reference “tax”. It said, Totale: €300 and under that corrispettivo €70, non pagato per mancia.
As we, began to leave, the waiter returned and asked, ‘Nothing for my service?’. I responded that, ‘The owner should give you gratuity.’
I will attempt to report this incident to the authorities for the primary reason that the visiting public should be warned about restaurants that take advantage of a situation. We were not looking for a free meal and have paid handsomely for good food and service in Roma. But, unfortunately, we have lost some our enthusiasm for one of the most important parts of our visit…the food!” – Mark R.
What to do if this happens to you:
Do not pay the bill and call the police or carabinieri by dialing 112 or 113. If you have already paid, take your receipt to the police and file a complaint. Tell your story to whomever will listen.
Why are tourists targeted by businesses who make their money through tourism?
A dog does not bite the hand that feeds them. However, many restaurant owners in Rome feel it is alright to scam tourists because they know they will not return and tomorrow there will be a new group of tourists in their restaurant. They feel that they are smart to scam tourists and that therefore it is their right to do so.
It is time for things to change. Mike and his family will never return to the scammers at Ristorante i XII Apostoli in Rome but now that you have read his story, you will avoid it as well and so will I. People who are about to be lured into it might google the name on their phone and the title of this post will pop up.
People can easily research restaurants in seconds from anywhere and those who dare to scam us, will eventually pay for their crimes. Karma is real.
If you have been scammed, please let me know so my readers can be informed.
Please read Avoiding Scams and Mangiare Bene: How to Pick a Top Restaurant in Italy