Aperitivo: Happy hour, Italian-style

Aperitivo an Italian pre-dinner tradition, a great way to enjoy a nosh before the main event

Aperitivo, an alcoholic drink taken, before a meal, to stimulate the appetite, from the Latin aperitivus, in turn from the Latin aperire meaning to open.

Technically, an aperitivo is really just something you drink. But in Italy the aperitivo is much, much more.

From south to north, east to west, you will find friends and officemates gathering in bars in Italy around 7 p.m. about an hour before dinner.

Of course, a “bar” in Italy isn’t the same thing as a “bar” in the United States. In North America, a bar is someplace where you go primarily to drink alcohol. In Italy, a bar is where you go in the morning to drink coffee. It might even be a place where you go to have a sandwich or quick bite in the middle of the day. Or it might even be a place where you stop on a chilly fall afternoon for a cup of hot chocolate (known as a cioccolata calda in Italian, a hot chocolate that is closer in mouthfeel to a light chocolate pudding).

At some point after 6 p.m. in nearly every Italian city, the bar owners begin laying out lots of small bites. And when we say “lots,” we mean tons!

Just like in the aperitivo spread above, Italian happy hour doesn’t offer you a discount on drink prices (as bars and restaurants do in the U.S.) but it does offer you a literally limitless amount of snacks.

And the best part of the deal is that in Italy, the snacks are usually made with authentic Italian food products (although sometimes the spread features chips and pre-made and frozen savory mini-tortes or mini-pizzas).

Some people drink bitters for their Italian happy hour. Aperol Spritz is arguably the most popular drink currently in Italy. But in the Veneto, where we live and grow and make our wines, Prosecco is the number-one beverage served at aperitivo. It’s the perfect wine to go with the salty, savory dishes typically offered to guests.

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