The bill, which has gone viral since the disgruntled tourists shared it on travel advice website Tripadvisor, shows how the total for food and drink came to €349,80, with an equally steep compulsory tip or service charge of €80.
The restaurant in question is Antico Caffè di Marte near the famous Castel Sant'Angelo (also known as Hadrian's Tomb) in central Rome.
It gets a “terrible” rating overall on TripAdvisor, with foreign customers referring to it with the words “scam”, “a rip-off”, “sharks, be warned” and “disgusting thievery”.
Faced with a storm of criticism, its owners told Italian daily Corriere de la Sera that their “menu is clear, the reason they (the Japanese tourists) paid that price is because they not only ordered the spaghetti but also the fish that was fresh.
“The customers chose it at the counter themselves.”
But another angry customer who shared an equally expensive bill wrote on TripAdvisor that the restaurant had more than doubled the weight of seafood and fish he actually ordered and blatantly overcharged him.
In recent years Italy has made international headlines for the number of cases of tourists getting ripped off by extortionate restaurants.
These include the €81 paid for two burgers and three coffees in Rome, a €1,100 meal for four at a restaurant in Venice, a single cone of ice cream that cost €25 in Florence and a €42 check for three gelati and some water near the Trevi Fountain in the Italian capital.
Fortunately, local authorities have started handing out their own bills to the rip-off restaurants in the form of fines, such as in the case of the Venice ‘ristorante’ mentioned above, which had to pay more than €10,000 in penalties for overcharging and other irregularities.
“What happened to these Japanese tourists is very serious and greatly damages the image of Rome’s restaurateurs,” Claudio Pica, head of the Italian Federation of Public and Tourist Traders Fiepet-Confesercenti, told Il Corriere.
“We ask that Rome’s police and tourist police intervene and make them pay a high penalty such as losing their license or face criminal charges.”