In Italy, between around six and eight in the evening, you’ll see them everywhere, in every corner bar or beachside hangout: Italians congregating for the ritual of the aperitivo.
If you love food and drinks as much as I do, then you’ll understand and appreciate the Italian logic of prepping your stomach for food by consuming food (and alcohol – Don’t forget the alcohol!)
Throwing a small one back, especially if it’s comprised of something bitter, usually has the effect of making one hungry – thus, “opening” (“apertus” in Latin) one’s appetite. But, you can’t just be left hanging there with an empty, rumbling stomach until dinner, right? (Especially since dinner time here can start at 8:00 p.m. and on). That’s why there’s no aperitivo without a little something to munch on. In many bars, either more simple ones or, in many cases, more touristy, that something can be as basic (but nonetheless essential) as potato chips and peanuts. In other places, you might be served (what to me is) the equivalent of a small meal – which, as an American, gleefully shocked me. Ain’t no one brining you free food with your Chardonnay at Applebee’s! I could live off some of the pre-dinner spreads I’ve been served here without ever touching dinner.
What I’ve noticed as an outsider is that, equally important with what’s on the table or in your glass, is who you’re with and how you’re relaxing. Aperitivo time is the break at the end of a day’s work, where one can transition from work-mode to home, mingle with friends, or simply enjoy a moment of peace.
Leo and I have been lucky to sip martinis and spritzes in some of the world’s most beautiful settings. But some of our best aperitivi were found in the least-suspecting places, like the corner bars in our own neighborhood, usually full of gray-haired gentlemen smoking cigars and playing cards. And for our friends who aren’t living on the boot with us, it is so easy to make your own aperitivo at home, and it’s a habit I would strongly recommend picking up. We’ll be sharing some recipes and tips for making your own delicious spread in your own kitchen. Everyone everywhere can join the fun and live the sweet life!
Stay tuned for those recipes I mentioned, as well as travel tips and drink inspiration.