There is no nation in the world more besotted with children than the Italians - though the Chinese deserve honourable mention. It is therefore surprising - and a bit unsettling - to read that a restaurant in Rome has banned under-fives from dining there.
La Fraschetta del Pesce, in Rome's eastern Pigneto district, serves fresh fish caught by the owner's son. So far, so family.
But a sign posted recently in the window of the restaurant has caused an international incident of sorts: the restaurant has decided to ban all young children, describing them as "little uncontrollable terrors".
"Due to some unpleasant incidents caused by a lack of manners," the sign proclaims, "children under 5 are not allowed in this restaurant".
How British to segregate children from adult pleasures. And how very un-Italian to bar children from the dinner table.
Of course a disruptive child will ruin the meal of those dining around them, and should be removed from a restaurant immediately. But do children really have the worst manners? If we were to ban every person guilty of bad manners from restaurants, the industry would collapse. Ditto the Tube. Quite possibly the office.
Rudeness in restaurants
When he was two months old, I took my son to Le Manoir aux Quatr'Saisons, a fine country house restaurant, for a lunch with my husband. While we enjoyed elegant food and impeccable service, the behaviour of a man at the neighbouring table left much to be desired.
His table was a metre from ours, and he proclaimed loudly, as my husband, (sleeping) baby and I sat down: "If that child screams, it will ruin everyone's meal."
As it happened, the baby kept schtum. The man at the next table did not. Throughout the meal, he barked to his wife in a distinctly one-sided conversation that - against all odds - the baby hadn't made a peep. Moreover, he marvelled loudly, "Look at the mother! She's lost nearly all of her baby belly already! So much better than most women these days!"
While my son's behaviour made the grade for Le Manoir, the manners of our neighbour - who must have been in his sixties - were appalling.
A child is like a labrador: each animal's behaviour is a reflection of the effort put in by the adult human in charge.
If we want children to enjoy restaurants without interfering in the enjoyment of others, we should offer them good, high-quality, and varied food, and include them in the group's conversation. Also, I have rarely seen a "children's menu" that looked appealing. Chips and sausages appear on no one's pyramid of healthy foods. Offer children smaller portions from the adult menu.
If a child does throw a tantrum, parents should work quickly to remove the child. Parents should know their children and only bring them to dine when they are in good spirits.
But the only way to prevent your progeny from becoming rude diners like the man at Le Manoir is to include them regularly when dining out and show them a good time.
All a ban on children in restaurants will do is ensure that they do not know how to behave when confronted with an elegant meal. And then they will grow up into adults who are similarly clueless.
A different ban to back: iPads
But, while we're on the subject of children and bans, the elimination of technology - smart phones and tablets - for people of all ages at fine restaurants would be a major victory for civilisation.
From Byron to Dinner, the glow of a screen during a meal is ubiquitous. Parents seem to think it is socially acceptable to hook young children up to iPads, with headphones, so they can zone out in front of a cartoon, or play a game. This is just as rude as when the parents check their emails at the dinner table.
A well-exercised and well-rested child won't throw a fit – or a fork - and he or she certainly doesn't need an iPad to enjoy a meal.
And the counter-argument?
"I'm a mother – but kids in restaurants is just ludicrous," says Anna Tyzack. Read the rest of her argument here.
The Telegraph, London