Inside: Learn the art of aperitivo and host your very own Italian happy hour!
In northern Italy, there is a delightful ritual called aperitivo.
Similar to our “happy hour,” it is a way for friends to gather after work, have a drink, and nibble on appetizers.
That’s where the similarities end.
During an Italian aperitivo, drink prices actually go UP, instead of down. Why would prices go up?
Because with purchase of your drink, you will get little plates of food called stuzzichini (a course of appetizers).
Aperitivo can vary from location to location. We’ve experienced some bars that have a very casual “help yourself” aperitivo spread and others that are truly decadent.
Sometimes waiters will serve you small plates directly at the table, and other times you are welcome to help yourself to the buffet for an all-you-can-eat assortment.
Dishes vary, usually includes nuts, olives, chips, cheese, meats, and assorted crostini.
Occasionally you’ll get slices of pizza, little meatballs, or tiny bowls of pasta.
The Art of Aperitivo
Italians believe that it’s important to prepare the body for a meal by slowly awakening your digestive system.
And they feel the best way to do that is by drinking an Aperol spritz before dinner. They believe this drink helps open your palate and it’s usually the drink of choice during aperitivo.
The first time I heard the name Aperol spritz, I was curious. I’d always associated the word “spritz” with German, but here was a classically Italian drink with spritz in the name. (Side note: in Italy, they pronounce this like schvitz.)
So, huge geek that I am, I did a little research.
The word “spritz” originated with the 19th Century practice of adding a spritz (German for “splash”) of water to Italian wines.
Rumor has it these bold Italian wines were too strong for delicate German palates and they needed to add some water to help the wine go down.
(Adding a splash of water to wine makes me think of a café americano – brewed espresso with a spritz of water. And now forever more, I’ll be referring to these drinks as café spritz!)
After my first experience, I quickly fell in love with aperitivo.
This idea to slow down after work, socialize with friends and family, and relax with a drink and some nibbles.
Doesn’t this sound heavenly?
Ready to create your own aperitivo party?
First things first. You need a drink. To make the classic Aperol spritz – you’ll follow a very simple 3-2-1 recipe.
A refreshing, classic Italian cocktail.
- 3 parts chilled prosecco
- 2 parts Aperol
- 1 part chilled soda water
- 1 slice orange
Mix together prosecco, Aperol, and soda water. Pour over ice and garnish with an orange slice.
You’ll want to set out little bowls and platters of delicious bites. Plan to serve an assortment of the following:
Cheeses – a hunk of parmigano-reggiano, taleggio, provolone or mozzarella di bufala would be tasty
Salume (small cubes of meats) – ham, bologna, prosciutto, pepperoni are delicious
Olives – these Castelvetrano olives are SO GOOD
Marinated vegetables – these are a favorite at our house
If you want to put in a bit more effort, you can make a simple bruschetta, or top sliced bread with cheese and broil until crispy.