The culture of the Italian aperitif: how a beloved and widespread custom throughout Italy was born
The Italian aperitif is a great classic of the cuisine and food and wine culture of the Bel Paese.
It seems that the custom of participating in this daily social event was born in Northern Italy two centuries ago (probably in Turin, the home of Vermouth), and subsequently it spread to the rest of the country. Since the Dolce Vita era, i.e. after the Second World War, Italians have learned to appreciate more and more the experience of consuming a pre-meal away from home, sipping a good wine or a Vermouth and, in the following years, a cocktail, sitting at the counter or at the bar tables. It was an opportunity to forget the war and to enjoy, at the same time, the economic boom, the shop windows, the city lights and the glitz of Haute Couture.
With the 2000s and the invention of Happy Hour, things have changed a bit: the amount of food consumed during aperitifs has increased, so as the types of drinks available to customers and consumption opportunities. The aperitif is no longer just a short pre-dinner break but it has become a real moment of the day to share with colleagues on weekdays and with friends and relatives on holidays.
In the last 15 years the custom of the apericena (aperitivo + cena, meaning dinner) has been invented, a real meal that extends until dinnertime and which represents a real convivial moment, less demanding than the classic restaurant dinner and at the same time more structured than a simple aperitif with drinks and appetizers.
How to make a perfect Italian aperitif
- Choose the time and make a reservation
Generally, the italian aperitif is served from about 6 to 9 pm, i.e. in the times that historically include leaving the offices and the following dinner, or entering cinemas and theaters. We can tell you that it is unlikely that a place will have all the food ready before 6.30 pm and there will hardly be anything fresh left after 8.30 pm. Keep that in mind! Furthermore, in order not to find yourself in difficulty, we suggest you make a reservation beforehand, so you can be sure of having a good seat inside or outside the venue, depending on the season and the weather.
- The setting, the service and relaxation
We’re talking about the moment of relaxation after work, when people can unwind without paying much attention to form and etiquette, or the moment that precedes or even replaces a dinner. The aperitif is often informal, does not provide a very set service and lets customers spend as much time as they wish in the room. However, especially during the weekend, it is better to choose and book the venue beforehand in order to ensure a seat.
- What to drink
The italian aperitif was born as an opportunity to sip Vermouth (or Vermutte or Vermòt), an aromatic wine that is now famous all over the world thanks to some exceptional brands. Over the years, the wine and drink lists offered by Italian bars have grown enormously. In Italy many famous cocktails based on rum, vodka and gin were born (or imported) which today dominate the aperitif tables. One of the main cocktails drunk today is certainly the Spritz, of Venetian origin, based on Aperol which gives it a sweeter taste, or Campari, which gives it a slightly more bitter taste, and Prosecco.
The Spritz, the classic orange cocktail, is the drink you will most often see in the hands of pre-dinner Italians, accompanied by more or less abundant appetizers, based on the formula ordered. More rarely, wine and beer are sipped during an aperitif, even if it is right to expect to find all these drinks on offer in a good aperitif venue.
- Light or “reinforced” italian aperitif
As we said earlier, the Italian aperitif is often “light” and consists of a good drink, accompanied by simple foods that should not satiate, but only prepare the palate for dinner. It might include toasted peanuts, chips, treats and at most a piece of pizza or bruschetta.
In truth, however, today the type and quantity of food served during aperitifs can vary from place to place. Some places serve finger food and appetizers or abundant aperitifs based on cold cuts and cheeses, pizza and/or fried and typical local products. The choice is up to you, according to your tastes and your hunger!
We at Insideat, lovers and promoters of Italian food and wine, love to welcome customers during our cooking classes with an aperitif that includes a drink and some appetizers, depending on the experience in which you participate. The aperitif allows you to enjoy a good moment of relaxation, before putting your hands in the dough to make pasta, ravioli and tiramisu, gelato and fettuccine, pizza and pasta in just one hour.