Rome Tip: Cheap eats survival guide
By Sav D’Souza in Rome—
Don’t want to get trampled by meal costs when in Rome? Read on for my tried, true, and tested cheap eat survival tips.
1) Watch out for package deals.
Stay away from what I call the “slashers”: Anything that touts itself as an all-inclusive “Bar/Restaurant” or has a menu decreeing that it offers pizza/gelato/pasta.
It’s also best to steer clear of any restaurant that boasts an all-singing/all-dancing agenda. Surcharges here are the norm and food is pretty lackluster.
Lets face it. If you’re in Italy, you’ve come to experience the good food that the country is renowned for, not some sub-standard chain-like grub where posted food photos aren’t even prepared in a kitchen (many, believe it or not, are microwaved!) Many bar/restaurant places offer only average food and can be quite pricey.
So, here’s the deal: Always look for a “ristorante” or “trattoria.” Likewise, head to a real gelateria for ice cream. You can sing and dance while you’re there.
2) Be smart about prices. Ask ahead for “house specials.”
Restaurants often tempt diners with “house specialties”… that are often posted on placards without prices. If your dish isn’t on the menu, and you don’t ask about price before ordering, you risk ending up with indigestion when the bill arrives. Also, “market price,” (common for fish and seafood dishes) can mean anything, expensive or cheap, so ask ahead.
This doesn’t only apply to upscale restaurants. Some unscrupulous vendors will charge a pretty piece for the simplest of snacks, like a sandwich and a cola. Others charge a hugely inflated price for bottled water with your meal.
3) Be specific about food quantities.
In Rome, you have to be a bit vigilant and assertive when ordering food by the quantity. For example, in many pizzerias, your slice is cut to order. You may only want a small slice, but some vendors (if they recognize you as a tourist) will try to cut off a large slice of pie (which will cost a heavier slice of your budget).
Italians are direct, so speak up if you only want un piccolo.
4) Beware of extras.
In some restaurants (and most with fixed-price menus), you will get charged for a basket of bread. To add insult to injury, the bread might also be stale. Some establishments charge for water, or add on a cost for additional dinner guests or alcohol. Know what you’re paying for ahead of time. And if you don’t care for bread, send it back!
5) Take it away.
To-go prices in Rome are much cheaper than sit-down prices. Sure, sipping a cappuccino while hanging out in a lovely outdoor café is romantic and chic, but it will typically cost three times more than if you order your espresso to go or drink it standing at the bar (as most locals do).
Share your dining tips!
Do you have any tips for saving money on food in Rome? Let us know below!