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Episode #115: The Art of Aperitivo

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The tradition of aperitivo is a large part of the Italian lifestyle and culture. It is not simply an extra meal or snack and we explain what it’s all about and how you can get in on the action when you’re in Italy. 

Show notes

In this episode, we are joined by Raffaela Ceddia who has spent many years living and traveling in Italy and is the founder of Flavourhood tours in Melbourne, Australia, As well as explaining all about aperitivo, we also give you some tips on where to go for your pre-dinner drinks when in Italy, with a surprising tip on who to asks to find great local aperitivo spots.

Melbourne listeners! We’re having aperitivo on April 1st with Flavourhood Tours. For more details and ticket info click here

What you’ll learn in this episode

  1. Aperitivo is a tradition of pre-dinner drinks accompanied by small snacks. Usually served between 7 and 9 pm, the classic aperitivo drink is Campari or Aperol spritz
  2. It started in the north of Italy in a place called Piemonte, around the 18th century. It then spread to Milan in the 20th century and that’s where it really took off. It became like a kind of after-work thing, although people generally don’t go straight from work because Italian like to go home and shower and spruce themselves up
  3. From the restaurant and bars perspective, the tradition of Aperitivo is a chance to bring people in and give them a chance to open up their appetite. Derived from the Latin aperire, meaning to “to open”. So someone will have a drink, you have some nibbles, and then hopefully people will stay on
    That’s where the word comes from. It’s all about opening up your appetite. So you have a drink, you have some nibbles, and then hopefully people will stay on
  4. For those engaging in aperitivo, it’s an excuse to catch up with your friends, with your family. If you live in a small town, you don’t even have to call anyone to say meet me here at this time – you know that if you go to this particular bar at this particular time, you’re going to see your friends and be able to catch up, have a drink and some food that’s always served with the drink
  5. Aperitivo can be really fancy and high-end as well as being a chilled-out and laid-back experience too. You could order a spritz and without you ordering it, it’ll come with some olives and crisps or maybe some mini pizzas or you can go places where their offerings are more creative and elaborate (& there can be some serious competition)
  6. The food did use to keep coming so that now things are starting to change a bit because they found in some places you could go and spend €10, have a drink and eat so much/enough for dinner for just that €10 and obviously, bars started to realize that this isn’t really profitable. So they now put out a certain amount of food and by around eight-ish it’s all gone – so if you’re still hungry you buy dinner
  7. Some places, high-end or in hot spots, charge a cover charge, so you spend a certain amount of money and it will buy a certain amount of drinks and nibbles
  8. There’s really no such thing as a typical aperitivo anymore because it’s so varied. Some places you’ll go because you love the rooftop view, or the vibe of sitting in a charming, atmospheric piazza and other places, because you love the food offering
  9. Some people, especially the young will do aperitivo a few times a week
  10. Aperitivo is family-friendly as kids are welcome in most bars and restaurants in Italy. A great place to head in Florence is Piazza Santa Croce – not for a particular bar but anywhere there you get a great ambiance, with local children playing soccer, running around or blowing bubbles in the piazza, just having fun, while everyone is just sitting out having a glass of wine
  11. Some typical/classic aperitivo time drinks are:
    • Prosecco
    • Red & White wine
    • Spritz – Aperol or Campari  
    • Negroni  – a cocktail of vermouth, Campari and gin
    • Sbagliato – in Italian, “sbagliato” means “mistake.” Supposedly, a bartender grabbed sparkling wine instead of gin as he was making this cocktail
  12. The snacks can be a great way to try new things.  You might get things including olives, chips/crisps, trapizzino pizza pockets, meat or seafood skewers, fried cheese, polenta cakes
  13. If you don’t have a huge appetite one day, then having lunch as your main meal and then aperitivo later in the day instead of dinner works great
  14. You might go home to have dinner with your family or you might stay out with friends. More typical that you would go home maybe once or twice a week you might go out for dinner with friends but of course one of the most important things in Italian culture is spending time with your family. So you can catch up with your friends at aperitivo and then go home for dinner
  15. The Italian department store La Rinascente, which you’ll find all over Italy, very often has a gorgeous rooftop bar, so check that out in any city you visit when looking for aperitivo spots with amazing views and great aperitivo – Katy & Raffaela have enjoyed the ones in Milan, Florence, and Palermo
  16. In Catania, Sicily, some of the best aperitivo places are not your obvious ones in the beautiful piazzas, but they’re actually in the rooftops of hostels. So when you go up there, it’s not just backpackers that are there, but the locals go too and they’re fantastic
  17. When you’re traveling, aperitivo is a lovely thing to stop and join in. You can sit there with your drink and your little snacks and watch everything going on around you and then reflect on what you’ve done that day, what you’ve experienced, and what you loved about it
  18. Many places are now calling it Happy Hour rather than Aperitivo, which may sound less romantic and special for us, but for Italians, they like the sound of a happy hour and everyone is and does look happy during that time
  19. Not sure where to go? Ask the locals where to head for your aperitivo – from the local police (Carabinieri) to the tabaccio and your taxi driver. The Carabinieri in particular are an excellent, if surprising, source of information for where to get aperitivo or lunch or dinner

Great Aperitivo Spots in Italy

Rome

  • Freni e Frizioni in Trastevere  – 7 pm to 10 pm, and there’s enough pasta, couscous, salads, sandwiches, mini pizzas, cheeses, and warm bread to serve as your main meal. Most of the food is vegetarian – cocktails, casual. It’s a place where friends catch up but it’s popular with tourists as well, so you get a bit of that experience of the locals and the tourists. A relaxed and chilled-out place
  • The Court (Palazzo Manfredi) – rooftop bar near the Colosseum with views – Cocktail prices: From €23. Aperitivo snacks included: Your drink includes an ample snack selection from Caprese skewers to hand-cooked crisps, olives, mini-burgers, and more – almost a light dinner. This is a very nice five-star hotel, so dress accordingly. Great for a treat
  • Up Sunset Bar in Barberini – this bar and terrace restaurant occupies the sixth and seventh floor of La Rinascente, including the outdoor, upper level.  beers ranging from €6-€9, and cocktails priced at €12-€16, chips and olives. Near the Spanish Steps
  • Harrys Bar – old-school charm, perfect for enjoying your Bellini

Florence

  • Piazza Santa Croce – anywhere in this atmospheric piazza is great for aperitivo time and great people watching
  • Loggia Roof Bar – at Hotel Palazzo Guadagni in Piazza Santo Spirito. Stunning views. 
  • La Casa del Vino – hidden away behind the leather stores at the San Lorenzo market. Love the crostini toscani (fegatino chicken liver pate toasts), the selection of wine and other finger food snacks like cheeses and meats

Venice

  • Caffe Florian – famous and stunning historic cafe bar in Piazza San Marco
  • Osteria Al Squero – cicchetti bar in Venice overlooking the gondola workshop

Catania, Sicily

  • The Yard – lovely roof top bar above a hostel used by both backpackers, tourists and locals
  • Ostello degli Elefanti – with a view of the main street there, which is Via Etnea and at the end of that street you can see Mount Etna.

Milan

  • Aperol Bar – gorgeous bar with terrace that overlooks the Duomo
  • Bvulgari Hotel – high-end hotel with luxurious bar to enjoy cocktails

Sorrento

  • Vista Sky Bar – rooftop bars with panoramic views of the Bay of Naples, the islands and Vesuvius

Positano

  • Franco’s Bar – a contemporary and vibrant space, suspended above the sea, with an old-fashioned, quality-first drinks menu perfect for a post-swim aperitif. You’ll find it at Le Sirenuse, a charming family-owned hotel located in the heart of Positano

About our guest – Raffaela Ceddia

Raffaela comes from an Italian family and believes this is where her strong passion and love of food comes from. She’s always been culturally curious and in her early years, traveled and experienced many cultures through living and working in different parts of the world. After returning to Melbourne, she started working at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival on restaurants, bar crawls and MC’ing at festival events. This is where she discovered my love for hosting people and showing them Melbourne’s diverse food scene. She began taking friends on unofficial tours of Sydney Road and they encouraged her to do more. So, in 2016, Flavourhood Tours was born! Flavourhood Tours run delicious, culturally authentic & diverse food tours of Melbourne’s north is expanding to other neighbourhoods this year.

Flavourhood is just about to introduce their twice-monthly (to begin with) Aperitivo tour in Melbourne’s Little Italy. It will be from 5 to 7 pm and will be a progressive aperitivo. Normally in Italy, you would probably stay just in one place, but since it’s a tour and all about experiencing the area, they are visiting five very different places to have a drink and a nibble – to try some fantastic food and drink.

You can find Flavourhoood Tours on these channels:

Places mentioned in the show

  • Modena – city known for its balsamic vinegar and opera heritage, plus Ferrari and Lamborghini sports cars
  • Bologna – university city known for its porticoes and food culture
  • Ortigia  – charming small island off Sicily that is connected by a bridge to the mainland. It is the most historic part of the area with a long history, having been one of Greece’s most important cities after its founding in 734 BC
  • Piazza Santa Croce – square in Florence taking its name from the Basilica of Santa Croce that overlooks the square
  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – next door to the Piazza del Duomo, the Galleria is Italy’s oldest active shopping gallery 
  • Catania – second largest city in Sicily

Food & Drink

  • trapizzino – mini Italian pizza pocket/sandwich
  • Aperol – an Italian bitters made of gentian, rhubarb, and cinchona, among other ingredients
  • Campari – an Italian alcoholic liqueur, made from the infusion of herbs and fruit 
  • Negroni  – cocktail of vermouth, campari and gin
  • Sbagliato – in Italian, “sbagliato” means “mistake.” Supposedly, a bartender grabbed sparkling wine instead of gin as he was making this cocktail
  • Bellini – a cocktail made with Prosecco and peach purée or nectar, originating from Venice

Resources

  • apericena – aperitivo is sometimes references as apericena, with the word ‘cena’ meaning dinner, so pre-dinner
  • Cheers bar – fictional bar the sitcom Cheers from the 80s and 90s, set in Boston. In a locals bar ‘where everybody knows your name’
  • La Rinascente – famous department store in Italy
  • Carabinieri – are the national force of Italy who primarily carry out domestic policing duties
  • tabaccio – as well as for cigarettes, the tabaccio will sell lottery tickets, official forms, stationary and other bits and pieces. You can recognize these by the sign – a rectangle with a big T and the words  ”Sali e tabacchi” (salt and tobacco)
  • Lygon Street – home to Melbourne’s Little Italy

Resources from Untold Italy

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Transcript

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