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Four university students visiting Venice experienced a rude shock when their simple meal of steak, fish and mineral water cost them €970 ($1,202.58 USD).

The students paid their bill at restaurant Osteria da Luca, near St. Mark’s Square, on January 19, but filed a complaint with Venice police after returning to their university in Bologna, a few hours away.

Newspaper Corriere del Veneto shared receipts from a number of Osteria da Luca customers who had experienced similar price gouges, including one line item for a €166 ($205.80) risotto entree.

The mayor of Venice, Luigi Brugnaro, has vowed to crack down on the outrageous prices, saying, “If this disgraceful episode is confirmed, we’ll do all we can to punish those responsible. We are for justice — always.”

“This is just the latest case of many of this kind,” said Marco Gasparinetti, a spokesman for the April 25 Group, a Venice-based organization of supporters of the city, according to The Telegraph. (The group is named after the day when Venetians celebrate the feast of St. Mark, the city’s patron saint.)

Osteria da Luca is not the only offending establishment in town. Luke Tang, a university lecturer from Birmingham, Great Britain, complained after he and his parents were charged $652 for lunch, also near St. Mark’s Square. Tang said he and his elderly parents had been billed for a number of items they did not order.

“I do not expect there will be any refund, but I wanted to draw your attention (to) the behavior of this business,” Tang said in a letter to the mayor. “(This) will ruin the reputation of Venice. It is disgraceful and indeed the shame of Venice.”

The April 25 Group has warned tourists to beware of increased opportunity for rip-offs as the annual Carnival of Venice commences, saying, “Whoever jeopardizes the good name of Venice harms all Venetians.

As of this writing, Osteria da Luca has 1.5 stars on TripAdvisor and one star on Yelp.

Featured photo by @adistar via Twenty20

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