It means cover charge and is normal,
Everywhere can charge coperto except in the Lazio region, which includes Rome - but, that doesn't mean that there are some restaurants that will charge it even though they are not supposed to. You can point out that you know it is not allowed in Rome.
You will also be charged in some place, including Rome, for bread (pane) - if you don't want it, wave it away when they bring it to the table and check your bill to be sure they did not include a charge for it.
And of course, the trade-off is that you pay the coperto and do not leave a tip.
the coperto and tip have nothing to do with each other. in Italy tipping is not the norm besides perhaps a small rounding of the bill or a little change on the table.
the cover charge is the norm except in Rome where it is not legal BUT they can charge for bread which you have to refuse if you don't want to pay for it. jsut because they set it on your table doesn't make it free. (Last time we were in Rome we ordered a bruschetta appetizer and they still brought a bread basket which we did send away so we weren't charged for it)
because of the cover, even an inexpensive lunch can get expensive for a group -- we tend to picnic at lunch or go to places without cover like cafeterias for quick meals
Janettraavels4, when you say that " even an inexpensive lunch can get expensive for a group" does that mean that the coperto is charged per person? I thought it would be for the table.
"the coperto and tip have nothing to do with each other. in Italy tipping is not the norm besides perhaps a small rounding of the bill or a little change on the table."
Maybe. But, I do then same thing as roadgard. I leave American style tips (15%),but I subtract the coperto from what I leave (15% minus coperto).
In Florence the coperto was per person and was in the range of 2-5 euro per person (luckily we were only 2 people. I find this coperto thing ridiculous. it seems to be a way to make the cost of a ,meal to the uninformed looking at a menu in the windlow look cheaper.
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It was however only a duplicate submission!
One possible reason for American difficulties with cover charges being "per head" or "per table" can be seen in the last para here....