Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Italy v. America: Etiquette within the Restaurant

Italy v. America

Etiquette within the Restaurant

I have yet to experience what I am about to discuss in Italy, so forgive me if this discussion seems at all one-sided. Perhaps some of my readers can contribute with their own horror stories?

Have you ever gone to a restaurant, are enjoying your meal with family and/or friends, only to be interrupted by the roar of a vacuum or broom being frantically swept right next to you?

A few weeks ago, while my mom and I were having dinner spending quality time together, this is just what happened. We were escorted to our table, ordered our drinks, and were then interrupted by a vacuum directly next to our table. After eying the waiter several times, he finally got the hint of the annoyance he was creating. However, what he and a fellow waitress began to do right after, was just as bad, if not worse. The waiter crawled underneath the table at the booth across the aisle, and began frantically sweeping debris from under the table, causing it to fly into the middle of the aisle. Behind us, the waitress was doing exactly the same. Appalled by what they were doing, and upon the delivery of our food, we asked our waitress kindly if they could stop cleaning while we ate. Annoyed by our request, the waiter stomped away.

The poor service continued with our waitress passing by literally every five minutes, obnoxiously asking if everything was alright. Halfway through our dinner, we were approached by the manager. Contrary to what we thought was about to happen (scolding), he apologized for the waiter, and offered a complimentary dessert. Apparently, someone had complained about not being able to finish his duties.

Although it is perfectly understandable that everyone has tasks that need to be completed before they leave or other customers arrive, I cannot fathom how poorly the current customers are treated. Cleaning in such a manner is really unsanitary. It is always about rushing the customers to finish eating so that more can sit at the table next. This is not the first time this has happened. It has happened on numerous occasions at numerous locations. Why is it so hard to adopt a relaxing ambiance so as to enjoy the meal? Won't that ensure the return of customers if they are worried about profit?

In Italy, it is quite the opposite. Waiters do not come to your table unless called upon. They see it as being rude if the diner is interrupted from his/her meal. Furthermore, I have never seen cleaning being done while people eat. This is not to say everything is better in Italy. On the contrary, they make up for it with the infamous Posta Italiana and transit strikes. But is it really hard to ask for common courtesy here?


  1. Yes, I love that in Italy you're never ever hurried. Sometimes they disappear so long that it's hard to get the "conto" when you want it. The only annoying thing I've encountered in Sicilian restaurants is that sometimes--even in some decent restaurants--the TV is on!!!!! Horrid! (This often happens when there's a soccer match!)

  2. Hi Jann!

    Yes, I do find it funny that sometimes you can't even find your waiter. lol The TV isn't nearly as bad as a vacuum though.