Italian Aperitivo, the happiest moment of the day
Italians are famous for their slow pace of life and the moment of Aperitivo is the greater expression of it. It’s the joyous, mood-lifting moment of the day where you can finally relax after work, get ready for the dinner to come and – if you are lucky enough – admire the sunset. It may seem similar to the American “happy hour” but it’s definitely unique in its kind!
Italian Good Food and Drinks: the tradition of Aperitivo
But what is an Aperitivo? Many think that Italian Aperitivo is exactly the same of the happy hour. Actually, in Italy there’s no such thing like special discounts – rather, prices could even be higher because of the food you are given.
The word “Aperitivo” come indeed from the word “aperto”, that means open: Aperitivo is supposed to open your stomach – and your heart – to a good dinner, while giving you a good chance to relax and socialize.
While happy hour is more a way to catch customers, in the Italian Aperitivo there’s more emphasis on the eating. While some bar offers only a few chips and some olives, lot of them will present you a scrumptious platter of cold cuts, bruschetta, focaccia in the perfect quantity to make you feel a bit hungrier and ready for the dinner without “ruining your appetite” (a real issue for Italian Moms).
The perfect evening with friends
Even though the “eat and drink” part is pretty important, aperitivo it’s not about food and drink. Or, let’s be concrete: sometimes one can think “I really need a glass of wine” or “I really need to eat something before coming back home” but the main characteristic of a real aperitivo remains conviviality.
During aperitivo, friends, colleagues or couples gathers to enjoy a good glass of wine or a good drink. It’s the perfect excuse to meet your friends during weeknight, before coming back home and it’s the starting point for the long nights made of dinners and parties.
Even if some tourists or young people with low budget see Aperitivo as a way to stock up on “free food” that is not its core, so if you’ll ever come to Italy, choose carefully your bar, relax, enjoy some quality time with your friends and, especially in small places, seize the occasion to chat with some locals.
A taste of Italian Food
Food served with the drinks usually varies according to the region and the bar where you go, as well. If you are selective in choosing a bar for aperitivo, you could very well end up somewhere that the food quality is just as high as what you would find in a proper restaurant.
As we told, some bar only offers a few peanuts, olives and chips. Some other will offer a platter with cheeses, salami, cold cuts and olives or some other kind of “finger food”. In fashion cities such as Milan, there are also places for vegetarian, vegan or gluten free aperitivo. Raw vegetables with olive oil and vinaigrette are anyway a veg-friendly option that can often be found.
Some local use to arrange a buffet at a set time. Usually, such kind of locals have a fixed price ranging from 10 to 20 euros regardless the drink chosen that will grant you free access to the buffet. Buffets have mostly cold foods: rice, pasta salad, breads. Sometimes you’ll get some cheese and grilled vegetables to add some variety
Campari, Spritz or Prosecco?
Typically, drinks that will kick-start the digestive system are low in alcohol content and tend to be bitter rather than sweet. The point in fact is not getting drunk but to relax and get in the perfect mood for food.
Aperitivo was born in Italy, in particular in Turin, at the beginning of 20th century when Antonio Benedetto Carpano invented the Vermouth, a moscato white wine, with the addition of aromatic herbs and spices, which gave it a distinct tang and a liquor-like texture. It immediately became a success and people started to create cocktail using it. Immediately after other aperitif such as Campari and Aperol were created and consecrated the aperitivo tradition.
All of them are still used for the most popular choice for the aperitivo in Italy: “Spritz” (Prosecco, Aperol or Campari, and soda water), the “Americano” (Vermouth, Campari and soda water) or the “Negroni” (Gin, Vermouth, and Campari). It’s not uncommon however to see people drinking a good Prosecco or white wine or a small bottle of beer.