How the trattorias attract guests irritates the Romans and their city government. They see culture in danger.
There was a time when you walked through Rome quite incurably, over the beautiful piazzas, in the shadow of churches and palaces, past bars and trattorias. Strolling through the old walls, that was actually half the story.
Now young people hit you at intervals of a few meters, often with the same scam: “Hello! Hello! Hey! Where do you come from? “The Romans among the passers-by get so annoyed at being mistaken for tourists in their own city that they sometimes react really harshly.
«Buttadentro» is the equivalent of the more established bouncer, «buttafuori», but is as annoying as a role model.
The young gentlemen with the bow are called «buttadentro», literally reinschmeisser. The encyclopedia Treccani introduces the term as a new creation. «Buttadentro» is the equivalent of the more established bouncer, «buttafuori», but as a model it is just as annoying, perhaps even more annoying. Reinschmeisser is intended to attract customers with red and white checkered tablecloths to restaurants that are at best mediocre to well below average, who otherwise would not have intended to stay there. Bars also turn on the “buttadentro” for the orange aperitif at dusk and far beyond.
At Campo de ‘Fiori, for example, there are now “buttadentro” on both sides of the square, in two rows, with menus in hand. The only way to escape them is to measure the campo right in the middle, sneaking around the statue of Giordano Bruno. The phenomenon has grown rapidly, including in Venice and Florence, and is now more widespread than on the Barcelona Rambla, which first introduced the genre to Europe.
Of the 2,000 bars in Rome’s historic center, 600 already have Reinschmeisser. Most of them come from Albania, Macedonia or Romania. They are not paid as well as waiters – except for those who throw in a lot of customers and work on commission. If you speak Italian, accept Italian. At least for the tourists, and they must be convinced. The Romans rarely eat in tourist traps.
“You damage the image of the city”
But there is hope. Rome’s new city government believes that “buttadentro” is a result of the decadence of mass tourism and the cultural corruption that inevitably accompanies it. And now that the tourists are back, a lot, the decoys are back too. “They damage the image of the city,” said Monica Lucarelli, in charge of trade and commerce. They will be banned – that’s it! – if necessary according to a police order.
First, they try the gentle way: the city creates the brand “Ristorante tipico romanesco”, “Typical Roman restaurant”. The prize is only awarded to those who have a minimum number of authentic Roman dishes on their menu, who do not serve ready-cooked pasta from the microwave and of course do not put a “buttadentro” in front of the restaurant.
Sometimes, however, the bait sweetens the heart so charmingly that one could almost give in to it. Recently, for example, in the quieter part of Trastevere, near Piazza del Drago. “The water is already boiling,” whispered the waiter in the white shirt, pointing to the trattoria with his outstretched arm.
Oliver Meier is an Italian correspondent. He studied political science in Geneva. Author of the book «Agromafia» (dtv, 2021).