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Cameron's trip: no service, no tip, at Tuscan cafe

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks to parliament  (Reuters TV)
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron speaks in July about phone hacking to parliament in London.Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

A barmaid has made a name for herself, but no tip, after telling British Prime Minister David Cameron he could carry his own cappuccino during his Tuscan holiday breakfast.

Francesca Ariani was alone and swamped with customers on Sunday when Cameron came up to the bar's counter and ordered two cappuccini and a coffee for himself, his wife and someone else, according to the barmaid's boyfriend, Jody Ceruti.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press from Dolce Nero bar on Monday, he said Ariani told Cameron he would have to carry the beverages to an outdoor table himself. And Cameron did, first carrying the cappuccini, then the coffee.

Cameron paid the euro3.10 ($4.50) bill at the cashier's, but left no tip. Ceruti shrugged off British media claiming that Cameron had stiffed Ariani. Not tipping when you serve yourself is "very normal by us," he said.

Ariani said it was probably better that she didn't know who Cameron was when he was placing his order. "It would have made it difficult for me," she said in a telephone interview, because other customers wouldn't have been served if she had given the Camerons special treatment. "When we can, we do wait on the tables, but we usually don't," given short staffing, she said.

Swarming with tourists
The Tuscan countryside in summer swarms with British tourists.

Ariani, who is also a co-owner of the bar in the town near the Arno River, spent much of Monday giving interviews in the cafe, which was closed as usual on Monday.

She suspects that when the cafe reopens on Tuesday, her regular customers will tease her.

And should Cameron return?

"I've publicly invited him back, in TV interviews," she said. "I'd apologize to him for not having recognized him and try to give him a little better service."

For the record, the prime minister, whose government is forging ahead with a rigorous austerity program in Britain, got off cheaply. Besides saving on the tip, he escaped what often is a hefty premium for table service at Italian cafes.

Back in London, Cameron's Downing Street office declined to comment while the premier is on a private holiday.