I was fortunate enough to live in a place for three years where it’s totally acceptable and encouraged to love food and leisure. I often still question why I moved back to America.
One of my absolute favorite social activities while living in Italy was meeting friends for aperitivo, which is a cultural tradition that maintains its classic edge yet has also been re-invented over and over again. It’s not uncommon to see teens as well as elders enjoying an aperitivo before dinner regularly, ‘opening the stomach’ prior to having dinner. Many aperitivos are so elaborate that you skip dinner all together. Generally speaking, a venue will offer you the option to eat with the purchase of a drink for an additional 5 – 10 Euro depending on the place.
When it comes to serving alcohol, there are a few classic libations I recommend:
- The Classic Aperol Spritz (my fave)
- Campari Spritz
- Negroni Sbagliato (meaning “wrong” Negroni – said to be the result of a busy bartender mistakenly using sparkling wine instead of gin)
- Vino Biano o Rosso
Some of the more contemporary aperitif venues will offer a variety of cocktails as well, and with the rise in popularity of speakeasy especially around Rome, you’ll be surprised at the clever creations mixologists are whipping up. More on the speakeasys of Rome when I return from my upcoming trip this July 🙂 In the meantime…there are some guiding principles however of this classic Italian tradition however that do remain standard:
Here are a few of my tips on how to prepare a great aperitivo:
- Variety and pairing: wine, cheeses, and meats are all typical and always enjoyable to serve, but it’s more fun when you get creative and mix it up. I am a big fan of tasty gels, jellies, nuts, olive varietals, fresh figs and dried fruits to add to the overall palate of flavors. Consider what items you have selected to feature, and how the tastes will influence each other. Aim to balance out the flavors so you don’t end up with an all too salty or heavy mix of goodies. If you are serving wine, use your judgment on what will work best.
- Quality: I can’t stress this one enough. Taste is everything, and because an aperitvo is about enjoying small nibbles, there is no room for mediocre product. When it comes to enjoying an aperitif, it’s quality over quantity. Always use the freshest ingredients and products – no compromise!
- Music: If you are going full Italian, then there are some fabulous legends to get on your radar: Paolo Conte, Lucio Battisti, and Rino Gaetano will do the trick.
- Presentation: Italians excel at finding or making the beauty in things, so pay attention to detail and the layout of your goods. Let your inner art director run wild – choose serving dishes and bowls that will hold and position your products so they look just as good as they will taste. Even a little branch of rosemary, nuts “casually” dropped around the food centerpieces, or a fresh picked flower can add a ton of charm to the plate!
- People: the best part about a good aperitvo is being able to enjoy the company of the ones you are with! Even if it’s just one to one, the goal is to slow down, and enjoy the time you are sharing with your crew – and the amazing spread you just arranged 😉 Salute.