I am going to La Mela in Little Italy tongight and have a question to those who have been there. While the place serves rather good, homestyle Italian (much better than the rest of the Mulberry street garbage), they do not have a menu, and therefore the final bill is always a surprise. The last time I went there, me and the waiter negotiated the bill. It was done in good fun, and I think he fully expected me to haggle. Tonight I am going with a larger group(some of whom I do not really know) and I wanted to make sure that such negotiations were still the accepted practice.
I told the person who was paying the bill that she should expect to haggle with the waiter at the end of the meal. She did not really believe that this was common practice at La mela, so she was a little hesitant. As the meal went on, she kept drinking more and more table wine. By the time the waiters had a little meeting in order to figure out what the initial bill should be (in all seriousness, they just make it up, based on what they think you thought you would pay, or what they think you can pay, etc) she was pretty loaded and in no condition to negotiate. They presented her with the bill, which was a little high, and we told her to begin bargaining.
She got the head waiter's attention, and he, knowing exactly what was on her mind, waved her over to the corner of the restaurant. Then a mini Mulberry Street Summit commenced, with the woman surrounded by the waiters, cook, grandmother of the owner, etc. From the table, we could tell they were having a good time, but also that the staff was winning.
When she came back to the table, we asked what happened. She said that the owner kissed her on both cheeks and told her what a good businesswoman she must be. She also said that they told her that she would fit in well with their family. When we told her to get to the point about the bill, she told us that she was simply going to pay the full price because she wanted to come back and be treated like family, and that they told her it was only $30 a head anyway. We did the math at the table (out of her earshot) and she was off by about $20 a head.
The bottom line is that she failed miserably in the La Mela bill adjustment process, and succombed to their charms. Since I wasn't paying the bill, I was very amused by the whole scene, and didn't really care what we payed. Although she was a few hundred dollars poorer, she also left a very happy woman.