I'm a mother – but kids in restaurants is just ludicrous

Family in restaurant with crying baby
'It can be a complete waste of time and money to take a baby to a smart restaurant' Credit: Alamy

In a fit of decidedly un-Italian behavior, the owner of La Fraschetta del Pesce , a popular family-run fish restaurant in Rome, has outlawed children under the age of five from entering the premises. If this were a fancy fish restaurant in London, no one would blink but in Italy, where babies and toddlers habitually dine out at smart restaurants, the ban has caused parental outrage.

 Babies and toddlers habitually dine out at restaurants in Italy Credit: Alamy

I’m half tempted to jump on the bandwagon: one of the most memorable – and only – dinners out I’ve enjoyed with my children (aged nearly two and three) was at a pizzeria in Como. We tentatively wheeled in our double buggy at 9:30pm to be welcomed with open arms.

The problem is, I can’t count on my children to behave well in restaurants. Particularly late at night.

I was relieved, therefore, to read Marco Magliozzi, owner of La Fraschetta del Pesce’s, reasons for evicting his youngest customers: “They run slalom among the tables…. They throw olive oil on the floor, they upturn the water, they send the salt seller flying across the room, they try to dismantle the furniture, they shout, they cry and above all, they hate fish,” he told newspaper La Repubblica.

This is not what taking your children out to a restaurant is like Credit: Alamy

I’d always wondered how it is that Italian toddlers are tame enough to take out for dinner. I have a rose-tinted image of them in pressed Baby Armani shirts, conversing politely with their great grandparents (without an iPad in sight) before falling asleep on a bench, while their parents party late into the night. How thrilling to hear that in fact they’re just as bad as the rest.

My husband and I learnt early on what complete waste of time and money it can be to take a baby to a smart restaurant when we turned up at Gidleigh Park in Devon with our eight-week-old baby (yes, what were we thinking?). “He sleeps soundly every lunch time,” we assured the staff, which he did, apart from that day, when he griped, moaned and screamed until we left.

Fortunately Gidleigh Park has sympathetic staff, who gave us a table on our own in a conservatory, but it was an important early lesson that children can sense a smart restaurant a mile off. Since then I haven’t rushed to invite them out to dinner with us.

So, if Magliozzi doesn’t want children in his restaurant, so be it. Kids are unpredictable; I respect my friends who ban them from their weddings. If youngsters aren't wanted, parents are best off out of it : there is nothing less enjoyable than a meal where the restaurateur tuts and shakes his head at your beloveds.

Anna Tyzack, pictured trying to take her children out to eat

It’s not as if there aren’t countless places that do welcome children.

Heathen that I am, I love our family lunches in Byron and Pizza Express, where the staff hand out colouring crayons and sweep up the debris under your table without raising an eyebrow. Italian parents are lucky that they don’t have to go to a chain to get this kind of welcome.

The ban is doing nothing to harm Magliozzi’s business – he’s still receiving five-star reviews on Tripadvisor. Still, he might have to backtrack, as in Italy it’s illegal to ban anyone from a restaurant without good reason.

If he does, I’d advise him to address the one complaint against children that he can actually do something about:  add fish fingers to the menu.

Read the alternative view: Why rude adults, not children, should be banned from restaurants