After what had been a very good meal at Da Dora, we had an unpleasant experience with the check that really soured the whole affair. My wife had ordered Dora's Linguini, which is a large linguini plate piled with seafood on top. Topping the plate was a spiny lobster. The menu priced the dish @ 22 Eu, but when we got the check we were charged 27. We noticed the difference and asked the waiter (whose English was good). He said we were charged more because there was a lobster added to the plate. I was willing to accept the explanation, but my wife checked the menu, and the description of the plater said that a Norway lobster was included. So she went back to the waiter and asked again. Yes, the waiter admitted, there is supposed to be lobster in the plate, but this was local lobster not a Norway lobster, and he said they were more. (After the fact my wife questioned why a local lobster would cost more than one from 1,500 miles away, but we didn't raise that at the time). She argued a little, but the waiter insisted, and we paid. We didn't really want to start an argument where we did not speak the local language.
After thinking about the check more, as one is prone to do after a bad experience, other things started to bother us. We were charge 6 Eu for a litre bottle of San Peligrino. That's an awfully high markup for a simple bottle of water. Any then my wife began to wonder if they charged us the proper price for the fish we ordered. They didn't show us the fish before they cooked it, which is common in Compania. We were charged by the weight. Could there have been a thumb on the scale? We knew before we came in that Dora was not cheap. Are these "surcharges" the price you pay for quality?
My wife is convinced we were taken because we were foreigners in a restaurant that is frequented by foreigners, and they would have never charged Italians the prices we complained about. Dora has such a terrific reputation (everyone raves about it, and the food was excellent) that I can't believe they'd play such tricks for 10 eu (on a bill that was well over 100). We have been to restaurants in Rome where things we didn't order were on the check and there were arithmetic "errors" in the house's favor. I know the second and third tier of restaurants in some of the Italian tourist cities play these games. But Dora?
Seems to me if they were going to charge us more than the published menu price, we should have been told ahead of time. Or am I applying US contract logic to a different culture? Was what we experienced on the level?
And what is the etiquette of challenging a bill in a foreign language? If we spoke the language we would have asked for the manager. Should we have done that here?