Sometimes, my students ask me what the term ‘coperto’ on the bill means… Literally, it means something which is covered, but this is not saying much. The majority of them think that it is the price you have to pay for the service in the restaurant and, therefore, tips are practically included. My husband, who is Irish, was a bit surprised to find out that we were paying € 1.50 each for the use of tablecloth and cutlery and so were my students! We are three in our family, therefore, any time we go out for dinner in Italy we find € 4.50 added to our bill under the heading ‘Coperto’. It doesn’t matter if the tablecloth is paper, plastic or silk and the cutlery is plastic or silver, or the number of glasses you are going to use, this is the price you pay. I have never seen anyone to bring their own tablecloth and cutlery from home, so I don’t know if they would still charge the coperto if it happened.
The coperto does not include anything for the service, waitress or waiter (cameriera o cameriere). Therefore if you have good service and you want to tip the cameriera/cameriere, they will really appreciated it. Wages in restaurants are not known for being generous, even though customers may pay astronomic bills at the till.
You may find some nice origamis made with your napkins on your table when you take a seat… enjoy them, they are included in the coperto! On the other hand, if you find any faults in your coperto, you should refuse to pay for it at the end of your meal!