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Meals to woof down

ROME (AFP) – Pepe’s meal is so good he licks the plate clean. In any other Rome establishment, slobbering on one’s chicken and mashed potato would be frowned upon – but this is ‘Fiuto’, Italy’s first dogs’ restaurant.

The lighting is soft, lounge music plays in the background, attentive staff show people and pets to their tables and ask whether furry, four-legged customers might fancy a boiled egg with pureed peas and fontina cheese? Or perhaps a simple fish with ricotta and courgettes?

Thirsty pups can opt for a green apple and watermelon juice, or go wild and have a pear, strawberry or banana one instead.

“We drew up the menu with a veterinary nutritionist with whom I determined the ingredients, taking allergies into account, because dogs have many more allergies than humans,” said head chef Luca Grammatico, who previously worked as a dog trainer.

Pepe, a four-year-old Bichon with a naughty face, licks every last crumb off his elegant black bowl, almost taking the geometric patterns off too.

Pets “are part of our family, so why not treat them like family?” said Sara Nicosanti, as she took a selfie with Mango, her five-year-old Jack Russell, in the mirror-lined area designed especially for this purpose.

There is not a bark to be heard: guests focus on their designer bowls, sitting on fleece blankets next to their owners’ tables.

ABOVE & BELOW: A dog named Pepe waits for a bone-shaped dessert served at the Fiuto restaurant in Rome, Italy; and two dogs wait for their bowls. PHOTO: AFP
PHOTO: AFP
A dish for dogs being prepared at the restaurant. PHOTO: AFP

Nicosanti, a 36-year-old real estate agent, said she is “very happy” with the choice at the restaurant, which opened just a month ago, because the dogs “can have a balanced diet too”, with “suitable ingredients”.

“No spices, no salt and no oils,” insisted Grammatico. Food for canine customers is prepared in a separate kitchen to that of their human owners.

Portions are tailored to the dogs’ size – S for those weighing two to 10 kilogrammes (kg), M (11-20 kg), L (21-30 kg) and even XL (over 30 kg).

“Fish is very popular because it is a different flavour to their usual food,” Grammatico said.
The mood is festive as Romina Lanza, a 40-year-old lawyer, celebrated her dog Rudy’s fourth birthday.

She sees “Fiuto” (Sense of Smell) as “a very welcome initiative” and brushes off questions as to whether it is right to wait hand and paw on pets, serving them freshly prepared, costly dishes, while people in other parts of the world go hungry.

“It’s a personal choice, I don’t see anything wrong with it,” she said.

Neither does Maria Gliottone, a 20-year-old student who discovered the restaurant on TikTok and came with Nala, her two-year-old dog, and Nala’s friend Douglas, a four-month-old Corsican puppy.

“Those who don’t have a dog think that, but those who do (have one) are more than happy to come here with their companion,” she said.

Since it opened, the restaurant has welcomed an average of six to 10 dogs every evening during the week and 10 to 15 at weekends, for a price per head of between EUR8 and EUR20 (around USD22), depending on the size of the dog.

“We’ve installed screens (between tables) so that when the dogs eat, they can’t see each other or disturb each other by invading each other’s spaces,” said Marco Turano. The restaurant’s three co-founders did not expect the establishment in the heart of Rome’s Ponte Milvio district to b so successful.

“We are obviously super happy,” said Turano, 33, as he wrapped up a surprise present – a detangling conditioner – for Rudy.

And while there won’t be candles, he will get a birthday cake of sorts: “a cheese biscuit with ricotta cheese and an end note of green apple”.

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