While the Milanesi can certainly take credit for bringing the aperitivo to Italy, you definitely have to hand it to the Romans for transforming happy hour time into something chic. Aperitivo or the aperitif as it’s referred to in English, is literally an alcoholic beverage taken before dinner.
But in Italy, it’s much much more than that!
The concept is similar to happy hour but it’s not a two-for-one type drink thing. Instead it’s a time to meet up with friends or wind down with colleagues after work.
It’s taken any time between 7-9pm – the time by which most people in Australia will have already eaten their dinner!Instead in Italy it’s customary to have dinner from 8pm. Nobody eats before this time, in fact during the summer months usually after 9-10pm is standard, with most restaurants full still after midnight and into the wee hours of the morning. Even now as the cool weather settles in, restaurants across Rome are still seating people up to midnight.
Which leaves this convenient 2-3 hour window in the evening for un aperitivo – a most beautiful concept that has fast become one of my favourite things to do here! Bars everywhere are full at this time, whereas the restaurants don’t really hit their stride until much later in the night.
Aperitivo time in Rome also means food! Actually another thing I love about Italy is that at any time of the day and at any kind of bar, the ordering of any type of alcoholic drink will get you a free bowl of potato chips or nuts or sometimes even some finger food – un stuzzichino or un spuntino. We Italians certainly take our food and beverage seriously.
So you can imagine what aperitivo time entails with respect to Italian food (glorious food). It’s become a real event! Most places provide an all you can eat appetiser buffet which includes things like sandwiches, hot or cold pasta, cous cous, mini pizza and other types of hot and cold finger food. The selection of course varies from venue to venue. The best thing about it is that you can go out for aperitivo and not have to have dinner at all afterwards. And it’s great value! Most places include the buffet with the purchase of one alcoholic beverage around €6-€8 or charge a flat rate which includes a drink of choice for around €10. ‘Bargain’, I hear you say! Yes, indeed!
In Rome, Sunday is the most popular day for aperitivo and this Sunday I went with friends to a bar call Necci in Pigneto, a really cool and eclectic area of Rome. I paid up my €10 and that got me my vodka and coke and a full plate of savouries like cous cous, chicken rice salad, savoury donut, vegetable quiche, pizza and a sandwich tramezzino.
The only problem with aperitivo time (and this is by no means a universal problem but one that is exclusive to yours truly) is that it doesn’t include dessert. Problem solved though – I ordered the most amazing strawberry cheesecake to complete the night!
I’ve also taken aperitivo at two places in Trastevere including this really cool bar called Freni e Frizioni (an old converted mechanic warehouse and the name translates to Brakes and Clutch) and La Parolaccia and Sons (the spin off bar of the famous Roman restaurant where you eat and then get sworn at in Roman dialect and abused by the waiters!) Both were fantastic!
Tonight instead, aperitivo time was at a friend’s house. We shopped around the Prati area (quite a beautiful and very upmarket zone around the Vatican) for a little while then stopped at Franchi– this fantastic food store which is like a deli that has a huge variety of the most sensational gourmet products.
Here we purchased some suppli (also known as arancini or rice balls) potato croquettes (crochette di patate) and baked ricotta to take home. I was then treated to a home made spritz, the cocktail which originates from the Veneto region and is made with prosecco, Aperol, a slice of orange and lots of ice. Amazing! Of course we finished off aperitivo time with dessert – tiramisu from Bar Pompi (see earlier post!). This time I tried the tiramisu al pistacchio – needless to say, Pompi will remain a regular in my schedule while I live in Rome!
Well people, here are my recommendations for some places you might want to check out for an aperitivo in bella Roma!
19:00 – 22:00 daily
€10 includes drink of choice and 1 large plate from the buffet (you make your selections and then the staff make your plate) which includes items such as mini pizza, quiche, sandwiches and cous .
La Parolaccia (Trastevere)
18:00 – 22:00 daily
€8 euro includes drink of choice and unlimited buffet with thinks like roast vegetables, potato bake, roast chicken, stuffed eggplants and crumbed zucchini.
Freni e Frizioni (Trastevere)
19:00 – 22:00 daily
€10 includes drink of choice and an all vegetarian buffet with items such as cous cous, rice salads and middle-eastern dips.
Hmmm well all this writing has gotten me a little thirsty… let’s just say that in my apartment it can be aperitivo time at any time and I think I could go a spritz right about now!
Signing off from Trastevere,