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Restaurants in Italy-glass of tap water provided 'gratis" as in USA?

Restaurants in Italy-glass of tap water provided 'gratis" as in USA?

May 15th, 2007, 04:40 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
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I'd certainly use the Italian phrases you've been given. Unlike Paris, where our request for tap water (both in English and my poor French) was always honored, in Rome and Florence last November, the waiters always brought bottled water. And in the restaurants, which were always very casual places, the bottles were usually 4 euros - as much as a class of wine or soda - though they were much larger. I think it may be customary, so we acquiesced, but it is an added expense.

Further, in Italy, restaurants often charge an amount related to the bread - on the bill as pane - in the 2-4 euro range.
kgh8m is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 04:48 PM
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I am one who LIKES bottled water. I find that the fizzy kind is just the thing to clear my palate, and make me able to be the complete glutton, and savor one more delicious morsel.

nukesafe is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 05:22 PM
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The cost of mineral water in restuarants is more reasonable. In Florence it was usually 2-3 euros for a large bottle, enough for 4 people to have a glass.

Gassata = carbonated, naturale = still

I grew up with bottled spring water- for drinking, tea & coffee, cooking, and don't drink tap water to this day. I know it's becoming trendier in restuarants these days with the reverse omosis thing, but I'm still worried about PCB's.
Apres_Londee is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 06:48 PM
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Actually, the term for sparkling water is "acqua frizzante," or simply, when they ask you which kind of water you want, you say "naturale" (natural) or "frizzante" (sparkling) whereas carbonated water is "acqua gassata" - slight difference.

Difference being, you can say "bevanda gassata" (generic term for "soda" as in Coke or Fanta or any fizzy drink) but you don't hear "bevanda frizzante"-as the latter word refers solely to sparkling water, and not some generic term for carbonation.

Girlspytravel is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 08:08 PM
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In the case of sparkling wine, you'll see two levels of sparkle: spumante is bubblier than frizzante. When it comes to sparkling water, I love the frizzante level when drinking it without an "additive" - whether that's spirits or wine or juice.

Nukesafe, you like the sparkles to accompany your dinner. I'm less inclined: the bubbles just fill me up.

Between the level of bubbles, the actual taste, the packaging and the marketing ... it's easy to see how there got to be 8 million kinds of "water."
tomassocroccante is offline  
May 15th, 2007, 08:38 PM
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I ordered a bottle of sparkling water --frizzante-- at a Rome restaurant. The waiter came with a bottle and opened it so quickly that I couldn't tell if the bottle had been sealed or not. It was not sparkling water and I've had the feeling ever since that I got tap water at the price of bottled water. It's a common scam.
MKE is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 04:03 AM
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I can almost guarantee that if I begin to insist on ordering tap water in restaurants here in Italy with my husband because it saves money and is done in my home country (USA) thus causing him embarrassment in his home country (Italy), the next time we take a trip to the United States he will most definitely refuse to leave a 15-20% tip "to save money" and because tipping is not done in his home country. He will make a point of saying that he will leave a $2 coperto each for the $50 bill, rather than a 20% tip of $10. Is that right to do just because that is how it is done in one's home country?

Drinking free tap water tends to be the norm in America, but not in Italy. Not leaving a tip is the norm in Italy, but it's certainly not the norm in America. Shouldn't we do whatever the norm is in the country we are in at the time or should we impose our home country's culture and customs?

I assure you the Italians do not serve bottled water just to make more money...it just happens to be the case that Italians (rich or poor) drink bottled water at home and at restaurants. I agree with the previous posters that you should insist that the bottle of water be sealed and closed when served to you. If not, ask for another.

Anyway, to each his own...if you want to make a brutta figura and insist upon ordering tap water to save some money (even though it is not part of the culture in Italy), then do it. I am sure there are some Europeans who disagree with the amount of tipping that is done in the U.S. and refuse to leave big tips, thus making a brutta figura. I personally disagree with the amount of tipping that is done in the U.S. but each time I visit I continue to tip the customary amount, because that is what is done in the States. I try to respect the culture of the country in which I am in even if I don't agree with it and am tempted to save some money. I try not to make demands that are not the norm in the country I am in.
amy_zena is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 05:02 AM
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I don't sse how the tipping analogy is relevant. You are tipping in Italy and the rest of Europe whether you like it or not, as the service charge is built into the price of your meal. In the US, tax and tip are separate line items. Tipping is optional - but expected; taxes however are mandatory.

I understand that drinking tap water is not customary in Italy, however you are certainly not putting anyone out or taking money out of anyones pocket by requesting tap water vs. bottled water. It is not as though a glass of tap water is particularly expensive to give away or that it requires some herculean effort to bring it to your table.

Anyway, one thing I think we can all agree on is that both of these horses have been long dead and sufficiently flogged....

ripit is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 05:22 AM
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Amy, you just went over the edge with the forced analogy about tipping.
j_999_9 is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 05:27 AM
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We drink bottled water in Italy. It's the custom, no big deal. Back in the hotel, we drink tap water. In France, we almost always drink tap water at restaurants unless we want sparkling.

One interesting note, though: it seems that *one* of the reasons kids are now developing cavities in their baby teeth more than did not so long ago is the rise in drinking bottled water. Tap water is fluoridated (in most places). Bottled water isn't.
BTilke is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 05:34 AM
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I think asking for tap water in Italy is an over-assertion. Why not just go along with the local format. The water is cheap, the wine is cheaper. They will just think you are a weird american if you do this. In better restaurants the water will be in glass bottles rather than plastic - so it doesnt go into the landfill.
jjkbrook is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 07:30 AM
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"You are tipping in Italy and the rest of Europe whether you like it or not, as the service charge is built into the price of your meal. In the US, tax and tip are separate line items. Tipping is optional - but expected; taxes however are mandatory."

This just makes me realize how expensive restaurants really are in the U.S. compared to the typical restaurants here in Italy. If you take a 7.00 euro primo pasta dish and deduct the built-in tax (about 20% VAT) and the built-in service charge (I'll use 17% because that's the average in the U.S. I think), the actual pasta dish is only about 4.40 euro. If you take a pasta dish at Carabba's in the U.S. which runs about $13.00 and add the tax (7%?) and 17% tip, you're actually paying $16.27 for that dish. And I went to a Carabba's for the first time this past March and was expecting the usual enormous American portion of pasta, only to discover that it was about the same portion amount of a primo dish of pasta I get here in Italy (and not as tasty). Even if you convert the 4.40 euro pasta dish to USD, it's still a bargain $5.95. And that bottle of water is really only 1.25 euro then. If indeed the owners of these restaurants are really basing their prices on banking 17% service charge, in addition to paying the mandatory 20% VAT. Hmmm...never looked at it like that before!
amy_zena is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 08:43 AM
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Out here in the burbs, the Italian restaurants don't serve pasta as a primo. It's usually combined with chicken or shrimp and in large portions as an entree in itself.

Do Italian restaurants add the coperto as well as boost the price of things like water and bread? It sure seemed that way in Florence.
scrb is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 09:07 AM
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But the custom in restaurants in Italy (to be distinct from "Italian restaurants") is the coperto, the habit of serving bottled water, etc. It evolved a long time ago and isn't some invention to soak tourists. So budget for it when you travel, and remember, again, how good the food is (when it's good, not necessarily so in a "tourist" oriented restaurant) and ditto the wine.

Customs. The custom here in the US has long been to lay a basket of bread on the table - and if it isn't eaten, what happens to it? Technically, you can't re-serve food that's been on the table already - I'm sure that law is almost universal. So a lot of food gets thrown away. A friend of mine who is a restaurant manager started a practice of the busboy bringing the bread basket to the table and offering the diner's their choice. The immediate result was a 50% savings in bread costs - but eventually they went back to the old way, as much as a time saver as anything: the bread service was slowing down the busboys and waiters during all the busy hours.
tomassocroccante is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 10:15 AM
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Thomas, that is interesting about the bread. I have noticed recently that many upscale NYC restaurants, no longer automatically place a basket of bread on the table but, rather, a waiter/busboy walks around with a bread basket and offers diners a choice of several types. I never thought of this as a cost-saving measure but it makes sense; of course the place has to have enough staff to allow for a "bread server."

Since Amy lives in Italy with an Italian husband, I would defer to her opinions on the bottled water issue. Certainly if I felt that strongly about saving a few euro, I would ask for tap water and not be embarassed about it. But in practice I just go along with the flow, so to speak. It is an opportunity to sample different kinds of water which is interesting, to me..

Is it really conceivable that water for a group of 8 would cost the OP more than 400 euros over the course of two weeks?? It certainly makes a case for drinking wine! Or tap water.
ekscrunchy is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 11:57 AM
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EK, I'm loathe to see food wasted - I grew up believing it's a sin and I still do! So I'm all for the "bread on demand" rule. I like it for water, too. In many, many restaurants in the NYC area today, as you know, before any water is poured they ask for the preference at the table: bottled, still, sparkling, tap? Every place is hapy to deliver whatever. It makes sense to ask before delivering tap water to the table, and then pouring it out when one person doesn't want water at all, others want bottled. Not only does water get flushed away (and mark this, the world is already fighting battles over water that will likely to turn to wars) but the table gets so crowded with glassware that there's no room for the food!
tomassocroccante is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 12:24 PM
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Part of this "water on the table automatically" issue is because of U.S. traditional etiquette. In the West, particularly, it has always been the "rule" that anyone that comes to the door as a guest is offered some form of hospitality/refreshment -- the minimum of these is a glass of water for the thirsty traveler.

This tradition was carried over to the restaurant trade here, as well as in homes, and us Yanks expect this "unselfish" act from our host, much like the French expect one to offer a "Bonjour, Monsieur" in greeting when one enters. It comes as a shock to many Americans on their first time abroad when they find they must ask, if not have to pay for, what their upbringing tells them should be an integral part of entering a place where food is served.

I can also see how it is not a tradition in Europe. Here, part of the offering a glass of water to a guest is the unspoken, "I offer you what my family drinks -- it is safe and pure". In Europe, often the water was questionable, and the polite thing to offer would have been the wine.

Different folks, different strokes.

nukesafe is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 12:48 PM
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marymarathons, the OP, started this thread:
"Is a glass of 'tap' water provided 'gratis' in Italy as in USA when ordering in a restaurant? If I request water with my meal is this provided usually as a bottle of water? I'd prefer tap water-unless there is some reason why this is not recommended. Would tap water be less expensive?"

It's only fair to her to note that price is the last thing mentioned in her query. She just wanted to know if she could get tap water.

Ask a simple question and get 57 detailed responses!
tomassocroccante is offline  
May 16th, 2007, 12:56 PM
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Few seem to realize or understand that some of us actually PREFER tap water to bottled water. I HATE any water with gas, so that is out. And quite a few bottled still waters have a sort of dusty or stone taste that I really don't like. Most of the rest have no taste at all. I know some will think it odd, but most tap water tastes better to me -- perhaps it is the minimal amount of added chemicals to make it safe for drinking. And I drink a lot of it. The two of us often end up buying two one-liter bottles of water at a single meal in Italy -- often at least 10 euro or $13.50 added to our bill. That's quite a bit of money to pay for something when we'd actually prefer the alternative tap water.

But back to the question -- I find it VERY DIFFICULT to get tap water in Italy, unlike France where it is VERY EASY.
NeoPatrick is online now  
May 16th, 2007, 02:39 PM
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I also prefer the taste of tap water.

Just wondering if you would elaborate on what was so difficult about ordering tap water in Italy- I'd like to be prepared.
marymarathons is offline  

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