I’ll never forget my first aperitivo.
It happened many, many years ago when I was a student in Padua.
One of my first friend in Italy took me to one of his favorite “bars,” which in Italy are really what we would call cafés where, aside from sandwiches and snacks, you can also get beer, wine, vermouth, and amaro, etc. (even a shot of grappa).
I’ll never forget it because it was also accompanied by disbelief: How could such an amazing spread of food be laid out before me, I thought to myself, when all I have to do is order a glass of wine or a before-dinner drink to be anointed as a welcomed nosher?
Back in those student years, when my only income came from playing in a piano bar duo and busking (yes, I used to busk back in those days!), sometimes my dinner came via an extended aperitivo at my favorite bar.
In America, we still don’t have anything similar: Every evening, using from around 6-8 p.m., Italian barkeeps lay out all kinds of snacks, ranging from salumi and focaccia to potato chips and today, even tortilla chips (a recent fad in Italy).
The funny thing about the aperitivo, at least from an American perspective, is that the owners don’t it for the same reason that we here in the U.S. put out weenies and pigs-in-a-blanket finger food for “happy hour.” We do it to entice guests to show up when the bar wouldn’t be busy otherwise and help increase the night’s profit. In Italy they do it because they live by the motto, no wine without food, no food without wine. In other words, they know people are already hungry as they head out to dinner or get off of work and so it’s imperative that food be available for their guests.
I’m exaggerating, of course, but only slightly. Just look at the aperitivo plate in the photo above. With such gastronomic riches, it’s hard to figure out how the owner makes money on it.
Either way, it’s delicious, satisfying, and the perfect way to get your evening going.
Man, I miss aperitivo! And I miss Italy. What do you miss about Italy?