Effortless Style. Those two words seem to epitomise the Italian race. It’s in their genes. And me, plagued with my inherited English awkwardness can just look on and admire how an entire population can manage to do even the simplest, mundane of tasks with such effortless elegance. An excellent example of this is Aperitivo, or as the average Brit would call it pre-dinner drinks. Whereas the English settle for a lukewarm pint and a packet of cheese and onion while slightly shivering on a bench in a pub garden the Italians have managed to make the whole thing into an event, peppered with inviting words like “spritz” and “stuzzichini”.
As evening draws in and the sun starts to set, all across Italy corks start popping and aperitivo begins with the soundtrack of ice cubes clinking against the glass. Depending on where you choose to indulge you will be offered a selection of nibbles which more often that not can be more plentiful and filling than an actual dinner. With a cold glass of something delicious and tasty food at your fingertips, all that is left is to sit back, watch the world go by and gossip like crazy with your companion, whether it be about football, local politics or the latest salacious scandal that’s doing the rounds. When in Rome…
The rules of Aperitivo
Like all things Italian there are unwritten rules which are expected to be followed and which if ignored will have the entire bar peering over their sunglasses to see who is doing the brutta figure.
Firstly, and most importantly is your choice of drink. While drinking is an undoubtedly important part of an aperitivo, the real art is to make it appear that you are not getting drunk. Hic. A suitable drink of choice is therefore a fabulous prosecco (the longer the stem of the wine glass the better), Campari, Martini, Vermouth or the ever-increasingly popular Aperol, all come bitter, in garish colours ideally served with an entire ice cap and a eye-pleasing slice of blood orange. These are the perfect accompaniments to your salty snacks so whether it’s a Negroni (Gin, campari, vermouth and soda) or an Aperol Spritz, you can sit back and sip on something delicious.
When choosing where to go for an aperitivo there are a few key factors to consider. Like most of life’s decisions it’s all about location, location, location. Your bar of choice should absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt have outdoor seating. You are doing this to people-watch therefore you need somewhere with a good amount of passers by who you can stare at from behind your over-sized, designer sunglasses. Different bars will offer different aperitivi, some may take the form of a buffet, others will bring a selection to your table. Choose whichever suits you but remember that while the food and drink are important, really this is an opportunity to socialise, wind down from work and catch up on the local goings-on with your friends.
Try not to look like you haven’t eaten for a week. No matter how delicious the food looks, you will stick out like a sore thumb if you overload your plate and devour it all too quickly. The word Aperitivo comes from the latin meaning “opening”. This is the what it is, an opening for the rest of the evening. It’s to get your stomach rumbling, not to fill it up. Remember, Italians believe that good food and drink should be enjoyed. There is no time limit, there is no rush, so relax and let the world pass you by. This is what aperitivo is made for. It is also becoming increasingly popular now for bars to offer Apericena, a richer form of aperitivo which really can take the place of a traditional meal so if you are more than just peckish look for bars that offer this.
And it seems as if finally the world is catching on, with aperitivo bars and events springing up in the world’s fashionable cultural capitals, this way of socialising shows how the Italian influence really is spreading world over.
So, reach for your sunglasses and enjoy what the Italians do best.