Def. The glorious few hours between around 5pm and 9pm, where most alcoholic (and some non-alcoholic) beverages are accompanied by an assortment of nibbles. These nibbles can range from olives and peanuts to tiny pizza like pastries, cold cuts and crostini, to a full on buffet service (apericena).
The Lowdown: The word ‘aperativo’ derives from the latin verb ‘to open’ and is intended to whet the pallet and ‘open’ your stomach before dinner. Its a long, leisurely affair which is not intended to replace dinner altogether, but designed to make you feel hungry. It’s a chance to unwind with friends after a long day; good drinks, good food and good company are what its all about.
The Drinks: Drinks are supposed to stimulate the appetite, so overly sugary and sweet cocktails are best avoided. Menu stalwarts include Negroni (Campari, Martini Rosso Vermouth) and Spritz (Aperol or Campari and Prosecco).
Where: Whilst the aperitivo was likely born in 18th century Turin, the home of Vermouth, you’ll find it at most establishments across the country. The Milanese might scoff at the idea of aperitif any further south than Rome, but these days you’re just as likely to enjoy one in Calabria as Florence. Some of the most famous establishments include Bar Basso in Milan and Bar Canova in Rome, but even if you’re at a train station you can expect to get a bowl of crisps and some olives to accompany your martini, though it’s not quite the same..
The Price: Prices vary, you can expect to pay a flat rate of anything between €4 and €15, depending on the establishment and type of aperitivo on offer.
I’ve made it somewhat of a mission to test out as many aperitivos as I can, obviously all in name of social experiment. Here are a few of my favourites: