When one thinks of dining in Italy one may conjure up romantic notions of 2-hour long dinners spent with great friends out on the piazza enjoying mouth watering courses of Italian food and wine served with precision and care. Well, after living here for 7 months, I now know “one” should think again!
The reality is most Italian restaurants have no idea what customer service really means. I find this strange because Italians are so concerned with quality and customer service when it comes to other industries, like apparel, where it’s considered rude if I select my own shoe box from the stack of boxes on the floor because it’s the job of the staff to pull that box for you and place that shoe on your foot… daahhh!
Let me warn you now, if you come to Italy expecting the kind of restaurant service you get even at a Denny’s in America, you might as well just ask the pilot to turn the plane around right now, because you’re not gonna get that kind of service in Italy my friend!
Most of the time Italian waiters have severe tunnel vision. There is no such thing as working a section of tables rather than one at a time. In Italy waiters get to you when they get to you; can only manage to take a drink order during their first visit to the table (mostly because ordering your meal at that same time doesn’t make sense to them. You order your meal when they come back with your drinks… about 15 minutes after you ordered them); and disappear for what seems like an eternity after the meal has been served.
You know how it gets really annoying at some American restaurants when the waiter or the manager continually comes over to see if everything’s okay at the table? Yeah, well you don't have to worry about that here because NO ONE would bother to ask you how your meal is because they’re not going do anything about it anyway! For reasons that are still unknown to me, the wait staff will pass by your table of empty dishes for 20 minutes without clearing any plates.
But here’s the absolute kicker for me; on 3 separate occasions my friend Christine or I have been asked to leave a restaurant. Yep, someone on the wait staff actually came over and said, “I need you to go soon.” One time Christine was asked to leave after only being at the restaurant for 30 minutes. She was still nibbling on her dinner plate when the waitress said she needed the table!
I’m sorry, you can talk to me about cultural differences all you want, but there is nothing as off-putting as being asked to leave a restaurant while in mid-sip of a freshly poured cup of tea! Especially when you’re not being loud, you have not stayed there without ordering an appropriate amount of food, and there is no wait at the door!
Oh Italian restaurants, if you could just adopt this one little habit from the United States, just this one little concept called restaurant service, I’d be the happiest gal on the planet!