The Aperitivo Tradition

The experience of the aperitivo is a consolidated Italian tradition. Literally, aperitivo is a pre-meal drink whose scope is to stimulate appetite, but it has come to signify the ritual of going out for a drink at one of the many bars that offer it throughout the peninsula. “Facciamoci un aperitivo” (Let’s have an aperitivo) is what you hear all the time the most casual way to meet up with friends- or blind dates! It gives you a chance to socialize and relax while snacking before dinner- often spoiling dinner altogether!

What drinks are fit for an aperitivo? Well, first of all there are the classic ones: bitter carbonated drinks like like Crodino, Campari Soda and Sanbitter come already bottled as soda drinks. Aperol and Campari are mixed in with different sodas and spirits to create an aperitivo- my favorite is Tassoni Aperol, a mix with cidar soda, and it makes for a very pretty color with the bright red of Aperol and the bright yellow of Tassoni! Another all-time classic is Martini, which in Italy refers to white Vermouth (Martini is the brand) served on the rocks with a twist of lemon. Many more mixed drinks are always available.

In recent years, Italians have been switching to wine as an aperitivo. You will see bars that offer a wide variety of wines by the glass, a rarity in Italy outside of aperitivo time. Wonderful reds like Barolo and Chianti are offered alongside light and breezy whites like Vermentino and Pignoletto, with Prosecco being the favorite pre-dinner sparkler. Wines have become an acceptable alternative to the more traditional drinks.

Italian bars serve a wide variety of finger food during aperitivo time, which is typically from 6pm to 9pm. During this time, every bar who serves a respectable aperitivo will feature several different varieties of snacks to its patrons. Piadine and pizze cut into bite-sized portions will be served on platter with olives, nuts, seeds, and tiny sandwiches. Puff pastry appetizers will be displayed along with specialty breads, breadsticks, and different baked goods. Bars will charge for the wine or drinks, but not for the food, which is supposed to complement the bar offering.

Unfortunately, it seems like venues in the Bay Area are not embracing this concept quite yet. How unfortunate: I am longing for a place where to rendez-vous with friends, sort of a permanent cocktail party, if you wish! If you know of any places, please send me an email!

Many of the City’s wine bars feature similar offering. Among them, Ottimista Enoteca offers the best selection of Italian varieties.

10 Responses to “The Aperitivo Tradition”

  1. [...] section. I love the bitter taste of chinotto, but I regularly pick up a couple of Sanbitter to make aperitivo at home. And, of course, wines: I like the AG Ferarri-branded prosecco, and in general the wine [...]

  2. [...] Pellegrino Bitter, also knows as Sanbitter- from the same producers of the world-famous water, the aperitivo I [...]

  3. [...] aperitivo tradition is one of my favorite ones: a time to enjoy time with friends after work before heading home for [...]

  4. [...] more surprised than me about this post, really! We stopped there for an aperitivo last week, and we were stunned to see typical Italian favorites like Negroni and Campari and white [...]

  5. [...] Aperitivo is a wonderful tradition you should not miss out on. Bars that offer an aperitivo buffet will charge you for the drink, but not for the food, which will range from simple chips and pretzels to sophisticated warm appetizers and parmigiano cubes sprinkled with balsamic vinegar. Buffet is all you can eat (but don’t forget the rules above!). Find a bar that serves an aperitivo buffet and head there between 6pm and 8:30pm, and you can skip dinner if you want! [...]

  6. [...] concept of aperitivi and the free food that comes with it is very clear in my mind, but in Italy I have never had [...]

  7. Hey, have you tried Adesso’s aperitivi in Oakland?

  8. Not yet- but planning an outing there since I love their “Dopo” venue!

  9. The aperitivo is absolutely one of the things I miss the most from Italy. It is unfortunate that the whole Nob Hill area, whilst so Italian in its roots, does not embrace the aperitivo tradition. If you consider that the price for an aperitivo in Italy ranges from 4 to 10 euros (about 6 to 13$), I would say that the prices in SF are still too high for something involving non-traditional Italian food (most of the little nibbles the aperitivo is taken with are very simple pastries and pastry-like items, plus peanuts and olives). Will try the Ottimista tonight, around happy hour, but it won’t be something I will do as often as when I was in Italy. Your post was very useful, though. Thanks for writing it!

  10. I’m in Desenzano Italy right now and have experienced the aparativo in my local bar. I’m hooked, it’s best for me with Campari as I love the bitter taste. It’s refreshing and a great drink to kick off the evening, especially in summer. It seems everyone in the bar drinks it ,some with aperol and others with Campari.

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