Last Updated on December 13, 2023 by Laura Teso
In Italy, the waiter usually waits for the customers to ask for the bill. So… How to ask for the check in italian? Here are three ways to ask for the bill in Italian:
- “Il conto, per favore.” This is the most common and direct way to ask for the bill. It literally means “the bill please.”
- “Potrei avere il conto, per favore?” This is a more polite way to ask for the bill. It literally means “Could I have the bill, please?”
- “Potremmo avere il conto, per favore?” This is the plural form of the second phrase, which is used when asking for the bill for more than one person. It literally means “Could we have the bill, please?”
If you are paying with a credit card, let the waiter know when you ask for the bill.
Pagare alla Romana
At this point the waiter will bring a single bill to your table. And usually people start doing math to understand how much each one should pay. Nowadays the smartphone calculator is always at hand. Once you had to rely on the one at the table who was good at math or something. Typically we split the total amount by the number of the diners. This way of dividing the bill in equal parts is called pagare alla Romana, to pay Roman style. The origin of this expression is not known, though. It’s a very practical system when for example everybody ordered more or less the same stuff (for example at the pizzeria).
But there are exceptions. When for example someone only drinks water and the others ordered 2 bottles of wine. At this point you can try to adjust the amount so that people pay equally in relation to the order (more or less). For example, alla Romana would be €40 each, but the ones who drink add €10 each and the ones who don’t drink pay €10 less. Or you could request separate bills.
Separate bills – Conti separati
Ideally, separate bills would be the most fair way to pay. So that everyone only pays for what he/she ordered. But very often this is a problem in Italian restaurants. And they often turn down the request. They’re too busy with other clients, or they’re trying to avoid the charges on different electronic payments. I recently read that by law they should agree to separate bills. But in practice I can tell you this rarely happens. They often complain, give you the stink-eye and ultimately tell you: no way. On some, rare occasions instead I luckily found very nice restaurateurs who accepted without blinking an eye. I hope this is getting more and more common.
To ask for this you have to say:
- Potete farci conti separati? Can you make us separate bills? Or
- È possibile avere conti separati? Is it possible to have separate bills?
The two sentences of course mean: Can we split the check / bill? (which would be: Possiamo dividere il conto?) But I think the first two examples would be better understood in Italy.
Card or cash
The 2 ways to pay your bill are by cash or card. Credit card in Italian is carta di credito. While debit card is bancomat.
- Can I pay by debit/ credit card? Would be Posso pagare col bancomat? con la carta di credito?
- Can I pay with cash? Is Posso pagare in contanti?
Pay at the table or at the register
You can of course wait at your table and pay there. But more often we all get up, wear our jackets and go to the front where we pay at the register/cashier.
Actually, in Italy there was also the habit to put the bill amount in cash on the table (folded on the bill holder) and then leave the restaurant. But I think this is not a common habit anymore. Firstly because people tend to pay with credit cards and not with cash, and second because there’s less trust in others. Both ways. Owners do not trust clients, clients do not trust other clients. Sad cause once it was very, very common.
It still happens in cafés for small sums though. Say you order 2 espresso, €3. You leave the €3 (plus the tip if you want) on the table and leave.
Keep the change
In Italy, it is not customary to leave a tip. But of course everyone will appreciate it if you do, especially in this time of economical crisis in my country. When you pay in contanti (pay in cash), you can leave the change to the waiter. In this case, you can say to him/her: Tenga pure il resto!
I’ll get this
If you want to pay the bill also for your friends, you can say: Pago io (literally I’ll pay) or Offro io (I’m offering) or ci penso io (I’m thinking of it).