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Ate at Italian restaurant this weekend and they only offered bottled water - sparkling or flat

I wanted to know how the chow hounds would Handle this - the bottle of water was 7 dollars which is not a lot of money but I have never experienced anything like this before - you were not allowed to have NYC tap water!!!!

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  1. There's a Italian restaurant in Queens that does the same (Sapori D'ischia, they're quite popular). Yeah, it's pretty outrageous. If it makes you unhappy, you can always vote with your wallet and not patronize this type of restaurant.

    Sapori d'Ischia
    55-15 37th Ave, Queens, NY 11377

    1 Reply
    1. re: Cheeryvisage

      I understand and agree with your sentiments and comments.....but ultimately, it would not bother me and I would order a bottle of sparkling mineral as I always do. Maybe I'm not the best person to comment on the issue.

      I'm sure someone will chime in and say it's against the law to refuse tap water if requested.....

    2. "the bottle of water was 7 dollars which is not a lot of money".
      $7 isn't a lot of money? For water? When you have the world's best tap water for a fraction of that price? I would have said "no thank you" or just left.
      Is there a reason why you haven't named the restaurant? Many here on chowhound know about Sapori D'ischia in Woodside, would you mind telling us the name of this place so we are forewarned?

      1 Reply
      1. re: jinglejangle

        You named the restaurant!!!! I guess this is well known by the chow hounds!

      2. Please tell us the name of the restaurant. I will never, ever go.

        1 Reply
        1. Scandalous!! I think NYC has great tap water. We affectionaltely call it "City Gin". Unless someone (my lovely and talented wife) wants sparkling water we just get tap water.
          Under the circumstances we'd get a bottle of water, enjoy our meal and express our displeasure as we leave. So many great restaurants in NYC that we would not need to go back.

          1. We never went back; I like sparkling water once in a while and always order bottled water in Europe but in the middle of a dumpy street in Queens, refusing to serve NYC tap water is pretentious and somewhat offensive.

            1 Reply
            1. re: kayemtee

              I've eaten in many sandwich or burger type places that will not serve you tap water.....it's really not that unusual if you think about it. In my state, there are many BYOBs, so the house makes no money on beverages.....they have to pay their bills, so I understand the policy if implemented.

            2. Ive gotten begrudgingly served a tiny waxed paper cup of tepid tap water ("we dont have ice") at totonno's in coney island, but then, the surly service (and awesome pizza) are really the appeal there.

              In sf there are lots of places that, regardless of the effect on their bottom lines, serve no bottled water at all.

              Totonno's Pizzeria Napolitano
              1524 Neptune Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11224

              2 Replies
              1. re: tex.s.toast

                They would still make a boatload of money buying cases of Poland Spring or Walgreen's water (at 17 cents a bottle) and charging $1.50 each for it.

                If offered that option, most could live with it, don't you think?

                1. re: Mike R.

                  Sure. And they could probably make a boatload of money selling shots of Scotch, but if that's not the identity they look to develop, that's their business. They apparently want to be known as a bit more upscale and serve only bottled water. That's their choice.

              2. Last time I went they wouldn't serve ice either. We used to bring our own but that was before they got fancy and started charging for bottled water. It used to be free. I have not been there for at least 3 years.

                1. Order wine. Problem solved.

                  1. I'll make a note to avoid the place: not that i'd be likely to go anyway: when i'm in Woodside/Elmhurst, it's because i'm eating Thai food...

                    1. Order 1 bottle and then go to the bathroom and refill from the sink.

                      1. Astonished at the $7 stuff - it used to be $1 I think?
                        There's some other bullshit there as well - no PARMESAN on the pasta with seafood!
                        And the Batali BS - lay off the sauce on the pasta!
                        All 3 are BS - easy on the sauce was a reflection of the poverty when especially meat-based sauces were beyond people's means and reflected no fundamental culinary genius.
                        The Parmesan - I need to Google. The bottled water - they are real asses.
                        Note: I like this place alot but they are not doing all that well and why they are doing this mental masturbation in the slightly scary place they're located in is really stupefying.
                        Anyway,I secrete my water and as another CH said get wine.
                        It's a fine place,struggling,so try and get over this North Korean bent and have a nice time.
                        BTW,there have Opera one night each week and also specials which are good value.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: micheal

                          you can google it, but in Italy, parmesan is not served with seafood pastas (with a few exceptions) I've had waiters in Italy flinch when a tourist asks for parmesan with their pasta alle vongole. Some flat out refuse, though usually nicely. They just can't fathom why someone would want to put cheese on a dish that, to them, it obviously doesn't belong on.
                          As to the light on sauce issue, again, in Italy, they are light on the sauce. Whether it grew out of poverty or for another reason, the truth is, I like good, properly cooked al dente pasta better with less sauce. Too much sauce is overkill. Most Italians seems to feel as I do.
                          As for the bottled water, when I was young and poor and living in Rome, I used to ask for tap water all the time at restaurants, even though Romans normally drink bottled water in restaurants. I was never refused tap water. So, for me, this is where this "authentically italian" place falls down.
                          I've eaten at this restaurant, but I wouldn't go back. Partly because of the bottled water policy, which I think is rude, and partly because i think the food just isn't that great. There are better places for me to spend my money.

                          Sapori d'Ischia
                          55-15 37th Ave, Queens, NY 11377

                          1. re: missmasala

                            Bingo #2. More education from them on "authenticity", trumping basic customer service. Sometimes (as with the parm. on seafood & the basic assumption that you'll drink bottled water) it's consistant with my own experiences in Italy, but it's taken out of context and too paternalistic for me. Maybe they'd like to charge a "set up" fee for the bread too... maybe they should tell me that they give their waitstaff a living wage and I dont have to tip 20%? Maybe grappa can be $2? That'd be authentic too.

                            1. re: Steve R

                              $2 grappa and a living wage is the kind of "authentic" I would love to see!

                        2. Nobody here should recommend giving in to this tactic. Yes, the place has a right to charge for something that should be free, or install pay toilets for that matter, but nobody who cares about other patrons or the restaurant experience in NYC in general should recommend going there. Let them close, It would serve as an example so no other greedy restauranteur tries this extortion. What's next-a separate napkin charge? People who use this website should be particularly outraged.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: addictedtolunch

                            i am not outraged, everyone can of course do as they chose, the thread started with h20, and now has everything but the kitchen sink thrown into how bad this place is, even suggesting pay toilets. lets tick to the facts. bottom line, if $7 bucks breaks your heart, go to another restaurant…for me if the food os good, service is good, experience is enjoyable, the $7 is a non issue, if however the food inset good, go to the other 567,251 restaurants in the area, and stop crying over $7

                            1. re: intrepid

                              I've stopped going because I think the service has gone downhill. I loved the food and couldn't care less about the charge for water. I think it's fine that people are upset about it, but I find it ridiculous when people tell me what I should be upset about just because we happen to use the same discussion boards.

                              1. re: donovt

                                My thinking was not that we should feel the same about the issue because we both post here, but rather because users of this website exhibit a higher than average concern for keeping quality up, including the quality of people's experience. If restaurant patrons start feeling like they are being clipped because something like this becomes a trend, it brings the industry down. If you want to confront a separate charge for water, a bread basket etc. because restaurants starts nickel and diming us instead of just reflecting the meal price in the entree where we can see and compare it to others, that's your business. I don't happen to think most people would agree that would be a good trend for restaurants in general.

                          2. I have made a comment earlier BUT can we clarify if the $7 stuff is real - my memory was a buck or two (mind you I object in any case if I ask for our outstanding tap water in NYC and am denied-btw has anybody noticed that EVIAN water at least in the USA is absolutely vile).
                            As I say,the store is nice,good value,there is an excellent,reasonably priced lunch menu,the misquided Taliban really run a superb kitchen. So I am a bit sympathetic - tell them to go F..themselves on the water but bring fine food. For fine food,they really do nicely

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: micheal

                              Back in 2006 when Frank Bruni was there the charge was $4 per bottle. It's not that much of a stretch to think it's up to $7 now. Frankie was not real happy about the lack of tap water.


                            2. Next time BYOB...I think the price is outrageous, and there is no guarantee that what was being sold to you was any better than NYC tap water. Buy a reusable, washable water bottle and filter your water at home. We have a couple of Wegman's water bottles sold empty specifically for that purpose. Since you live in the NYC area, there should be a Wegman's near you. Wegman's is saturating the Philly area with their supermarkets. We have 3 within easy driving distance and a 4th to open in Spring the structure of which is about 5 minutes away (That's non-rush hour minutes).

                              If the restaurant complains, tell them 'vaffunculo' and leave the premises.

                              I try not to go to Italian restaurants because my wife's maternal and paternal grandparents came for Italy. We've been married for almost 52 years. I've seen enough pasta for 3 lifetimes. However, I'm the one who cooks the risotto, and the red stuff that my wife calls 'gravy' isn't part of the ingredient list.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: ChiliDude

                                bravo, an activist, not a complainer I love it salute! felice nano nuovo long live anarchy

                                1. re: ChiliDude

                                  i have a filter at home, and a frissante apparatus, that allows me to drink filtered water with gas all the time, friends of mine in montevarchi ia mfg the equip its great

                                2. my big picture repose would be

                                  1- did you enjoy the food
                                  2- did you enjoy the service
                                  3- would you go back

                                  thats what matters your response pls/ thanks

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: intrepid

                                    And my big picture response would be to take the charge as an insult, and a sign they care little about serving their customers at a minimum level of graciousness. They're simply no reason to do so--not accepting credit cards can be seen as a margin saver, if a little burdensome, but not extending a simple, relatively cost-free bit of hospitality sends a message about who these folks are. If Chinatown noodle shops or Washington Heights comida criolla places can automatically offer water, and take credit cards,
                                    then there's no excuse for this boorishness.

                                    1. re: bob96

                                      I can understand the credit card policies, the fees that credit card companies charge small businesses as transaction fees are outrageous. They have a fixed income from their transaction fees coupled with the variable income stream of late fees and interest from the consumer. Margins can be razor thin at a small business, especially during a recession and a difference of 5% can mean survival or closure.

                                      1. re: bob96

                                        Maybe credit cards don't offer an analogy-those fees come right out of the merchant's pocket. As long as its an announced policy not to accept them, they aren't being discourteous. Of course, the practice may chase customers away, but that's their call. The water thing, on the other hand, strikes me as discourteous, especially if it's not clearly announced.

                                      2. re: intrepid

                                        I really appreciate Sapori d'Ischia as they have been a place offering good food at fair prices, in an area that lacks this kind of offering. I lived within walking distance and wish I made it there a little more often. And since they renovated their wine bar to be more inviting, it was a nice place for a casual meal at the bar. I was never bothered by the water situation. There is a sign near the front that explains that they only offer water from the Italian alps because they see it more fitting with their standard of quality. And for the most part, since they also operate as a retail operation, it was nice that they didn't gouge on the price (I remember $4 for bottomless bottled water for the table, not the price per bottle, maybe that's up to $7 now, or priced per person).

                                        I don't really see this that differently from a good sushi restaurant offering fish flown in from Japan, rather than the stuff caught locally because they don't think the quality is as good, even though there's plenty of local varieties of similar fish. People aren't crying over paying extra for mackerel flown in from Japan when there's plenty of good mackerel from the north Atlantic. Where's the wounded pride for north Atlantic mackerel or the call to boycott these quality sushi restaurants?

                                        Sapori d'Ischia
                                        55-15 37th Ave, Queens, NY 11377

                                        1. re: E Eto

                                          bravo..standing ovation- great post encore

                                      3. In New York State, it is illegal for a restaurant to refuse to serve tap water to a paying customer. In other words, they broke the law by refusing to bring tap water to the table when requested.
                                        You asked how I would handle this situation? I would inform the manager that he was breaking the law by not bringing a requested glass of tap water and that if he still refused, I would report the restaurant to the department of consumer affairs. BTW, $7 for a bottle of water is outrageous.

                                        4 Replies
                                        1. re: ajs42548

                                          I thought this was a myth? Which law actually specifically states this?

                                          1. re: Cheeryvisage

                                            It is a myth. It is hard to believe that there is no law in New York City that requires it, but there is not.

                                            1. re: bobjbkln

                                              My wife was in the restaurant business for over 25 years and that is what she told me. I can't quote the law, but as far as I know, any place that serves food in NYS must give a paying customer tap water if so requested. While I wouldn't bet my house on this, I do believe it's a health department regulation.

                                            2. re: Cheeryvisage

                                              When in doubt, ask an attorney :) This post made me curious, so I decided to do some research. I came across this current New York law, which probably needs some attention from the legislature for it's sexist language. Note this law applies only to water for employees, not paying customers:

                                              New York Labor Law § 377. Drinking water. Every mercantile establishment, restaurant, and
                                              every station, terminal or car barn where women employees of a street, surface, electric, subway or elevated railroad report for duty shall provide at all times for the use of employees a sufficient supply of clean and pure drinking water, and if placed in receptacles, the same shall be properly covered and kept clean.

                                          2. Sounds like a great way to keep the small spenders out of your establishment. It would be classier to do a Prix Fixe meal that included any type of water you wanted.

                                            3 Replies
                                            1. re: Geo8rge

                                              Then you would get those who would complain they do not want the appetizer or dessert....you can't please everyone.

                                              About 30 years ago, I remember a restaurant that used to pour Poland Spring water from a glass bottle to all guests....At the time, bottled water was not widely distributed like today. The restaurant should just tack the water on as food cost to each entree, just like they do for factoring bread. Problem solved.

                                              1. re: fourunder

                                                The Nino's Manhattan group of restaurants once made free imported bottled water a selling point..not sure if they still offer it.



                                                1. re: erica

                                                  Given their high roller clientele and absurd ovepricing, they might, as an amuse-soif.

                                            2. In Italy, the only water served at the table is bottled . $7 does seem high?

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: hetook

                                                not true. see above:

                                                "As for the bottled water, when I was young and poor and living in Rome, I used to ask for tap water all the time at restaurants, even though Romans normally drink bottled water in restaurants. I was never refused tap water. So, for me, this is where this "authentically italian" place falls down."

                                                And, while I admit to being an ugly american, my poor italian student friends did the same. Yes, bottled water is the norm in Italian restaurants. But I never had one refuse to serve me tap water.

                                              2. That is so pretentious and off-putting.

                                                1. It's illegal
                                                2. Its unethical
                                                3. The water here as everyone knows is fantastic
                                                4. Unless you're a telecom company, it's distinctly unmodern to take advantage of your customers

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: chowncy

                                                  Can you point to any code that says its illegal?

                                                  1. re: donovt

                                                    After a bit of non-exhaustive legal research it seems not to be illegal in N.Y. It's still tacky and ultimately stupid. There are other ways to make money.

                                                    1. re: addictedtolunch

                                                      I believe that all restaurants in NYS have the following 2requirements:
                                                      1. They must have a restroom for the customers.
                                                      2. They must serve tap water if requested.

                                                      1. re: ajs42548

                                                        Citation on serving water? I didn't track one down. This subject has come up in many online forums over the years from what I can tell and other than the one above for workers there's nothing cited. Resolve it and I can get you a free glass of water as a prize.

                                                        1. re: addictedtolunch

                                                          Agreed. Given all the regulations in NYS and NYC, I certainly understand why people believe that there would be a rule requiring restaurants to serve tap water on request. But as much as we want to believe it, it simply is not true. If they have over 18 seats, they have to provide a restroom, but not drinking water at the table.

                                                2. Can I ask a stupid question? Just because that is the choice they offer, does not mean there are not other choices. Did anyone ask for tap? I have been to plenty of places that try this, but, being a New Yorker, I just as obnoxiously ask for NY city's finest. And I get it.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: Siobhan

                                                    >Did anyone ask for tap?

                                                    The OP and others (including the NYT's Frank Bruni - see the link in Bob Martinez's post) asked for tap and were denied it.