Rome restaurant receives backlash after $471 bill for two plates of spaghetti with fish goes viral

Tanya Edwards
Cozy outdoor cafe in Rome, Lazio, Italy
Cozy outdoor cafe in Rome, Lazio, Italy

A restaurant in Rome has attracted the ire of the internet after Japanese tourists were shocked to receive a bill for more than €429.80 ($471) after ordering two plates of spaghetti with fish and two glasses of water.

The pair uploaded a picture of the bill to TripAdvisor, which shows they were charged an extra $87 (reportedly as a compulsory service charge). The incident took place at Antico Caffè di Marte near Castel Sant’Angelo in the city center, according to CNN, and the review quickly went viral.

Since the review was posted, other visitors to the Antico Caffè have shared their own horrifyingly high bills and stories about feeling ripped off by the restaurant.

One customer who posted on TripAdvisor, Minh Ngoc Bui, spoke with CNN. Minh, who is Vietnamese but lives in Germany, said she was with friends having lunch at Antico Caffè on August 27 when the waiter suggested the "seafood – mixed fish" dish from the menu, with a price of $7 (€6.5) per half cup (100 grams).

"We agreed because It would be not a big deal to pay €6.5 [$7] extra to try a recommendation dish," Minh said. "But they brought us only one plate of mixed fish around 2 kg [about 8 cups]."

She added, "We were kind of surprised when we saw this dish because we didn't expect '100 grams fish' would be this big. But it was our last day in Italy so we told ourselves it was OK.”

But, just like the Japanese tourists’ story that went viral, when they asked for the bill, she was asked to pay for 4.8 kg of mixed fish at a cost of $345 (€315), Minh said.

Adding service fee and tip, the whole bill was a staggering $515 (€476.40).

Minh Ngoc Bui's receipt. (Photo: TripAdvisor)
Minh Ngoc Bui's receipt. (Photo: TripAdvisor)

Other diners have voiced similar complaints on the restaurant’s TripAdvisor page, with one writing: “We ordered two pizza, water, and coffee no alcohol but they demanded €350 [$384] includes €80 [$88] service fee!”

And even prior to September, there appear to be complaints, with an Australian tourist writing: “We were hungry and looking out for a place to eat and as we were walking along... the food was average, I would not even bother to say what we ate - but to rub salt into the wound was the bill. I believe that we were overcharged anyway. We noticed afterwards that they ADDED 20% tip for themselves.”

Tripadvisor suspended the restaurant's review page and posted the following statement:

"Due to a recent event that has attracted media attention and has caused an influx of review submissions that do not describe a firsthand experience, we have temporarily suspended publishing new reviews for this listing. If you've had a firsthand experience at this property, please check back soon -- we're looking forward to receiving your review!"

Antico Caffè di Marte replied to the criticism saying that the menu "is clear," according to a statement published by the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero.

"Everything is written in detail, just look at the prices: €16 [$18] maximum for a spaghetti with seafood," Giacomo Jin, the owner, said. "To pay that figure, the [Japanese] girls ordered not only spaghetti, but also fish. On the other hand, our fish is fresh: the client picks it at the counter, we weigh it and we cook it."

He also added that the tip and service fee was not compulsory, which contradicts the reviews on TripAdvisor.

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