One of my favorite times of the day in Italy is the aperitivo time. It is a special moment dedicated to meeting up with friends after a hard days work where you sip away on some pre-dinner drinks and snack on some food. The poor translation of Aperitivo into Happy Hour does not really give you the right impression of what the bar is promoting. In fact, the drinks aren’t cheaper but more expensive, but to compensate the bar gives you some snacks to hold over your appetite. As some of you might know, we eat dinner much later here in Italy than in the States. Most Italians eat dinner around 9 o’clock so around 7 is the perfect time to have an aperitivo to tie you over until dinner. Aperitivos usually begin around 7 and last till around 9, but there is a new fad emerging of the Apericena, meaning drinks with a sort of dinner buffet. The amount of food provided varies from place to place. Some bars serve only the basics: green olives (watch out for the pits!), potato chips and some bar peanuts. Others will have a small buffet on the bar of finger foods ranging from pizza bites, mini sandwiches, cold meat platters, cheese plates, mini quiches, grilled veggies and of course bread sticks. My favorites are the Apericenas where you have a full on buffet of different types of pasta, meat dishes, vegetable dishes and fresh fruit where you can eat enough that the aperitivo becomes your dinner. In fact Cena (aperiCENA) means dinner. The best part is, you can go back for more as many times as you want! So even though the drinks are more pricy you usually get your moneys worth. Now the fun part: What to order? Well that depends on your personal tastes. You can order anything from a coke to mixed cocktails.
Some of the Italian classics are:
Prosecco: Italian wine- a sparkling dry, white wine
Spritz: My personal favorite- prosecco mixed with either Aperol or Campari (both bitter liquors but Aperol is sweeter and Campari is more bitter) and a splash of mineral water
Negroni: For the daredevils- Campari, gin, and vermouth
Americano: Nothing American about it- Campari, vermouth, and soda water
Martini Bianco or Rosso: Not to be confused with the Martinis we drink in America- the classic Italian vermouth, red or white, served over ice.
If you aren’t into drinking alcohol don’t worry there is something for you too (even though the price is usually the same). All bars serve analcolici (non-alcoholic drinks) which vary from Virgin Marys to fresh fruit cocktails. Now that you know your way around the aperitivo make sure you get one the next time you come to Italy. Just beware of the food buffet. Italians tend to be a bit pushy and disorganized around the food and they don’t posses the best line making skills. Don’t be intimidated! Work your way in through the crowd and grab what you want or you might be waiting a long time to get something. Remember: When in Rome, do as the Romans. Cin Cin = Cheers!
What’s your favorite before dinner drink?