If the hours between lunch and dinner stretch on a little long for your liking, it might be time you make the Italian tradition of aperitivo part of your daily routine. The term refers both to the general practice of pre-dinner drinks and the drinks themselves, which are often accompanied by snacks to sustain you until dinner.
The name comes from the verb aprire, which means "to open," so simply think of aperitivo as the opening act before your meal. Plan on a late dinner so you can have your fill of bruschetta, olives, and veggies without risking a poor appetite at your evening meal. And you can totally justify that afternoon cocktail because you get some food along with it.
So wait, why doesn't everyone do aperitivo?
If you'd like to emulate this tradizione italiana, we have some tips for you!
Start With the Drinks
If you're entertaining guests for an afternoon aperitivo, one easy solution is to open a bottle of wine. But if you want to get the true Florentine experience, save the wine for dinner and serve up some traditional Italian cocktails with your early-evening snack! Here are a few easy, traditional cocktails to try.
The Negroni: Equal parts gin, Campari, and sweet vermouth. Don't forget a twist of orange!
The Campari Spritz: Two parts prosecco, one part club soda, and two parts Campari. Garnish with an orange slice, and make sure to serve this one in a wine glass.
The Americano: Equal parts Campari, sweet vermouth, and club soda. It's a less alcoholic alternative to the Negroni. Don't forget the twist of orange in this one, either!
Don't Forget the Snacks
As it turns out, the Italians are great at snacks and have established the perfect pairings for your Negroni, Spritz, or Americano. Head to your local deli to pick up the essentials!
Great veggies don't need any help! Pick up whichever produce is the freshest and most in season—bonus points if it converts easily to finger food! Celery, carrots, and peppers are always great choices. Slice them up and serve in a bowl or dish worthy of their beauty.
The most important thing to keep in mind when you're arranging a meat-and-cheese board is variety. Having a wide range of flavors and textures will always make your selection more successful. For the meats, try a thin, salty prosciutto, a soft paté, and a slightly spicy salumi like sopressata piccante.
For the cheese, try to do the same thing! Choose a mild, soft cheese such as taleggio, a harder, more flavor-heavy cheese like parmigiano reggiano or pecorino romano, and round out your selection with some fail-safe mozzarella di bufala, which, if you didn't know, is actually made from the milk of water buffalo.
Don't forget the bread! Your aperitivo will not be complete without some crostini, preferably in the form of bruschetta pomodoro basilico, a fancy Italian way of saying "toast with tomatoes and basil." The simple ingredients will work perfectly together with the help of a little olive oil and salt.
Make a Night of It
If you've really committed to the Italian lifestyle, then your night has just begun. You'll want to have a traditional, multi-course dinner: a first course of pasta, a second course of meat, and a classic dish like tiramisu for dessert. And, of course, there will be wine pairings to bring out the flavor in each dish, and some grappa to wash it all down at the end. Once the meal is through, resist the urge to watch Roman Holiday in your PJs and head out to the discoteca instead—before you know it, it'll be time for breakfast.