Italian tourist in NY arrested for refusing to pay bill

NEW YORK (AP) - An Italian tourist who was accused of refusing to pay a tab at an upscale steakhouse said on Friday that he had forgotten his wallet and didn't have enough cash.

Mr Graziano Graziussi was eating with another person at Smith & Wollensky in Manhattan earlier this week. Police said he rang up a US$208 (S$257) bill but then told the waiter he forgot his wallet and couldn't pay. Police say he appeared drunk and tried to leave to get money, but the manager called police.

One responding officer was fluent in Italian and interpreted, though Mr Graziussi speaks English.

Mr Graziussi, a 43-year-old lawyer from Naples, had US$118 but refused to hand it over, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said on Friday. He was arrested on a charge of theft of services and was released.

Mr Graziussi said he was not refusing to pay, but was trying to figure out a way to get the remainder of the money, including leaving his iPhone as collateral while he ran to his friend's home, where he was staying, to get his wallet.

"I was suggesting any possible solution," he said in English. "It's only for forgetting my wallet that I got imprisoned. It is by no means true that I was refusing to pay."

The steakhouse opened in 1977 and is one of the city's best-known establishments.

The restaurant, where a steak costs about US$50, said it doesn't contact the police in matters involving customers without "significant cause".