The people of Cosenza rave about their legendary pizzaiolo and have proclaimed the Pizzeria da Gigi, located just outside of downtown Cosenza, as the best pizza south of Naples.

Pizzeria da Gigi in Cosenza, Calabria, southern Italy

And I believed them.

See. I’ve eaten there before.

The pizza dough was soft and filling, the sauce prepared with fresh tomatoes, the toppings, generous and flavorful.

Pizzeria da Gigi in Cosenza, Calabria, southern Italy

The lively dining room was bursting with the fulfilled voices of men, women and children gorging on fresh antipasto, homemade pizzas and savory desserts.

It was a good thing.

But then I returned.

After months of anticipation – not so much postponed for laziness, but rather for the holidays, traveling and B&B’ing – we made the hour voyage north to Cosenza and to the Pizzeria da Gigi.

Che delusione.

We arrived at 8:55 PM and with two small groups ahead of us, were told it would be a 30-40 minute wait.

Thirty minutes passed, 45 minutes passed, 60 minutes passed … 95 minutes passed … .

The busy hostess – Gigi’s young daughter – finally greeted us, long after those two small groups had been seated and served, at least a dozen other groups of varying sizes had eaten and we were once again standing in the lobby with two other groups.

“Oops,” she said upon hearing our name repeated for the third time that night. “I must have skipped you. You will be next.”

A young waiter came to the door a few minutes later and said, “There is a table in there if you want it,” and walked away.

We entered the pizzeria and looked around. A different waiter waved us over and we were seated.

Another 25 minutes passed and exactly two hours after we arrived at Gigi’s, we placed an order.

Another 35 minutes later, our pizzas were served. One of the pizzas wasn’t what we ordered. However, that is neither here nor there as we eagerly accepted it for fear that our stomachs would melt into the vacant spaces between our ribs … .

Our Cosentino cousin, obviously embarrassed by his city’s showing, summed it up well, “Non ho parole … .” Or rather, “I’m speechless!”

The pizza was good, although the sour taste in my mouth from the lack of apology and the humiliation we felt at being the designated invisible-customers-of-the-day had left an aftertaste no Naples-style pizza could quench.

So do I think the pizza at Da Gigi is the best pizza south of Naples? Maybe. It is good pizza. But the service is just too much to digest and well, if they don’t want my euros, I’ll spend them with someone who does.

** I’ve noticed here in southern Italy there isn’t a strong emphasis on the customer experience. Many establishments seem to have a “take or leave it” mentality when it comes to serving their customers. Why do you think this is? Do you see this where you live? Do you think businesses like this will see the backlash in their sales or does quality count more than service in some instances?

7 Responses
  1. To wait that long is crazy. If this the kind of place where you need reservations? If not they should have told you the wait would be longer, so you could decided whether to stay or not.

    Once you were seated your order should have been taken immediately and I would have given you a glass of wine or something on the house.

    For me I tend to frequent the same restaurants/bars because of the service. If a place is really busy they can still make you feel welcome. I do like how here (Italy) the wait staff doesn’t hover over you or try to rush you like they do in the States.

    I’m not a high maintenance person and I used to waitress in college. I have no patience for bad customer service and will not return to places that treat me poorly. Why would I? Life is too short.
    I agree. I think the service is as important as the quality of the food. I think offering us a glass of wine or a small appetizer would have been ideal, but the minimum they should have “offered” was an apology. I was in shock that they didn’t. I won’t return … no way, no how!
    nyc/carribbean ragazza’s last blog post..Tears, fashion and congrats to my sister.

  2. We’ve encountered this kind of service here in France. I probably wouldn’t go back, or try a different time, when the restaurant isn’t so busy…if the food is too good to pass up 🙂
    You could try a different time at this place and it would likely be better, but I wouldn’t give them another chance to treat me poorly. No pizza is *that* good! I have pride, dangit!
    poppy fields’s last blog post..Sorry

  3. From everything I have heard, that is part of the experience you call * Italy* We had a rude, really rude waiter in Rome. We chalked it up to Italy, Boh! THe pizza looks good though. But I get it- if I had to endure that- I wouldn’t be back. There are lots of other pizza joints around!!
    I think there is less you can do about service like this when it happens in Italy … ie, you can’t ask for a manager and get results, but by far this was the worst I’ve ever seen here. I hate that people just “accept” it and like I said in Carla’s comment, there are no residual affects on the success of the business.
    My Melange’s last blog post..Puccini and Pinot

  4. Carla

    This story sounds familiar to almost every Saturday night I spent there! (going out to dinner in Calabria)…Waiting around, a lot of confusion, rude workers or worse, just ignoring you! I know I did a lot of sighing and complaining while waiting…not that it seemed to help! ;-p
    I think that is just the Calabrese way of “customer service” and the people there have just gotten used to it (or just don’t know any better)…I guess it just depends if you really like the place to go back and can overlook the service…I am pretty stubborn, so there aren’t too many places I’ll return too if I can’t tolerate the way I’ve been treated…
    Kind of sad to admit but my Nonno was like this even when he came to this country and opened his store…just kind of an attitude like ‘if you don’t like it, get lost’…So it really must be that Calabrese mentality… :-/
    There is a lot of that mentality, Carla, you are right. The thing is, I think it probably worked back when your Nonno moved to the US. Now, though it is, or I should say “should be” unacceptable. I am stubborn, too. There is no place I like *that* much. Sadly, like you said, I think a lot of the Italian customers just accept it, so the businesses don’t really lose customers in the end and they have no motivation for stepping up their game.

  5. I have had a love/hate relationship with the service in italy. One biggie is the servers aren’t tipped – so there is no incentive for good customer service. But, the upside is you don’t have to spend 15-20% every time you eat out, on tips.

    Typically I have found that when you go to a small joint, and the owners/family are the servers, you get much better service. When you go to a place that hires servers, not so much.

    Also I have learned to not get cranky when they don’t bring the bill. You just have to ask, or walk to the front.

    That said, I also refuse to sit around and take the punishment anymore. I don’t in the states, and I finally overcame the shyness here to get up and leave. What you went through is horrible! I would have left.
    We should have! It was to the point where we thought “any minute now” and it had gotten so late we figured there would be a wait at any new place we chose to go. It also got to the point where we just really wanted to see how it was gonna end, ya know? I don’t mind so much when they don’t bring the bill, because I like to sit afterwards and talk, but the waiting in the “lobby” with no chairs … Ugh. I also don’t mind to wait if they quote you an accurate time, but that was insane!

  6. Okay, you’ve written about my pet peeve today. While there are countless beautiful and stunning things about life in Italy, the customer service isn’t one of them. Unfortunately everywhere I went in Italy the customer service seemed to be poor, not only in Torino where we lived.(Oh except we vacationed in Puglia once and everyone was kind and friendly with only one exception, and we did end up staying in a great agritourismo in Firenze where the customer service was fine…) the rest of the three years I lived in Italy though- not so fine. I think the best of both worlds must be found in your B&B, the Italian beauty and American charm!
    What a nice thing to say! We hope people find the best of both worlds here. I know we have had guests who left other places because of the poor service and P and I can’t understand why other business owners don’t “get it.” Mah! It is a pet peeve of mine, as well…
    Amber’s last blog post..Wee Wisdom

  7. Hi Cherrye. From someone who has worked in Italy for a few years I think there’s a confusion on who the customer actually is. I dealt with more than one supplier who thought they were the customer when in actuality it was the other way around. Restaurants in particular are confused… not all of them but it happens way too often that waiters or owners are unfriendly, grouchy or simply don’t care. The 15-20% tipping (or lack of) probably has something to do with it on the waiter/waitress side but there is no excuse for an owner. It’s not just in the south but all over Italy. Can you imagine if the food was great and the service was great too!! What a great business plan! and goldmine. I think service is on the decline in the US too unfortunately. I have a feeling things will improve with the state of the economy… something about survival of the fittest:) Have a great weekend.
    Good point, Joe. I often feel like I am doing them a favor letting them take my money. You pay and get ready to leave and some of the them don’t even say “thanks.” I am sorry to hear it is going down in the US, too. Pity.
    joe@italyville’s last blog post..Italian Cultural Centers

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