Look, it’s no secret that restaurants in and around tourist attractions tend to be known for their underwhelming entrees and over-inflated prices. Trying to find an inexpensive bite near St. Mark’s Square in Venice, Italy, is like trying to find a flat surface that isn’t being shared by seven pigeons and a woman with a selfie stick, but there’s a difference between choosing to splurge on a $17 coffee from Caffe Florian and being tricked into paying $613 for lunch.
Luke Tang says that the latter happened to him during a recent trip to the Italian city. He and his parents stopped in to Trattoria Casanova for lunch before flying back to England, and their meal probably cost as much as their airfare home. According to Tang, they all ordered seafood for lunch, and were immediately served a plate of oysters that they didn’t order. He said that when he pointed that out to the waitstaff, his concerns were ignored. They received their entrees—along with another giant plate of lobster, shrimp and sea bass that they didn’t ask for.
Then the bill came, and it’s amazing that they somehow didn’t throw up right there on the tablecloths. The meal, including those unwanted extras, cost €526 ($613). Tang told The Independent that if they hadn’t had a plane to catch, he might have gone to the police. Instead, he wrote a strongly worded letter to the mayor of Venice, urging him to take action against restaurants who take advantage of visitors who don’t speak Italian. “I’m not expecting a refund,” he wrote. “But I would like to draw your attention to a kind of behavior that risks ruining Venice’s reputation.”
The restaurant swiftly responded, shrugging it off by saying that they just should’ve sent all that extra food back. “We gave them what they ordered. The prices of the fish, per 100 grams, are shown clearly on the menu,” Trattoria Casanova’s manager said, according to The Telegraph “They didn’t send anything back. If there had been dishes that they had not ordered then they could have refused to eat them and then they would not have been charged.”
Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, didn't mince words in a in a follow-up interview with the Telegraph. “They’re cheapskates,” he said. “Someone eats and drinks in a restaurant, then says they cannot understand the language?” Brugnaro said that the Tangs should’ve known that eating in Venice would’ve been expensive—and that they should’ve left a tip too.
That said, it sounds like Trattoria Casanova has been pulling this shit for a long time. According to angry reviewers on TripAdvisor and Yelp, customers are often given extra items they didn’t order, charged for courses that should’ve been included in their fixed price meal, and completely shocked to learn that the price for fresh fish is per 100 grams, not for the entire meal, in case you were traveling without a food scale. Oh, and the restaurant adds a surprise 12% service charge, so you leave a tip whether you want to or not.
One Italian-speaking reviewer says he heard a waiter being told to deliver items he hadn’t ordered; he sent them back and was threatened with the police if he didn’t pay for them. (He didn’t). Another said he was charged for a spritz that was supposed to be complimentary, and was also stuck with a €168 ($195) flounder. The complaints are unending and almost identical: another $270 lunch, $248 fish and a heart-stopping $932 fish platter. (I would’ve drowned myself in a canal).
So yeah, maybe avoid Trattoria Casanova until forever.