Italian word of the day: ‘Apericena’

Is it a snack? Is it dinner? No, it's apericena!

Italian word of the day apericena
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

We’ve all heard of the famous Italian ritual of aperitivo, or aperitif, a pre-dinner drink which in Italy must always be accompanied by snacks.

The Italian word aperto means to open or begin.

– Posso offrirvi un aperitivo mentre aspettiamo l’arrivo di Carlo?

– Can I offer you a cocktail while we wait for Carlo to arrive?

An Italian aperitivo is really more about the food than the drink, though.

These “snacks” are included in the drink price. And they vary greatly by region, restaurant and bar – both in terms of their quality and abundance.

You could get anything from a dish of fat olives to a small plate of cheeses and meats. Bars might leave a few platters of snacks on the counter, or tempt people in with a full buffet table where you can fill your plate repeatedly with different types of pastas, salads, and various fried foods.

Aperol Spritz with a small snack is a popular Italian aperitivo. Photo: pixabay

Some older Italians complain that the “new trend” of big aperitivo buffets is “like happy hour in the US”. But if you’ve experienced both, you’ll know that’s not really true.

The food involved in an apericena is a long way from a dish of stale happy-hour peanuts, for a start.

In some towns, particularly in northern Italy, bars get competitive with their aperitivi and offerings can be very generous. You might even be presented with a hot dish of fresh pasta or polenta con ragu to be enjoyed before you hit the buffet. A sort of pre-appetizer appetizer, if you can imagine that. (Only in Italy!)

When there’s this much food, though, is it really still an aperitivo?

Some people might call it an aperitivo rinforzato or “beefed-up” aperitivo.

But since it’s becoming a replacement for dinner, or cena, it’s also becoming known as apericena.

The concept is great for anyone on a budget, or those who just don’t feel like cooking. Unsurprisingly, it’s becoming more and more popular and the once-jokey portmanteau is now slipping into everyday speech.

– Andiamo sempre per apericena il venerdì

– We always go for apericena on Fridays

– stili di consumo hanno trasformato un aperitivo in un apericena

– consumer habits have changed an aperitivo into an apericena

If you’ve never had an Italian aperitivo buffet, or apericena, we think it’s time to give it a try!

Do you have a favourite Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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Italian expression of the day: ‘Per cortesia’

It would only be polite to master the noble art of saying ‘please’ in Italian.

Italian expression of the day: ‘Per cortesia’

It usually doesn’t take long for foreign nationals residing or merely vacationing in the bel paese to realise that Italians have three different ways to express what in the English-speaking world is generally conveyed by means of a simple, unproblematic ‘please’.

Now, more often than not, the trio of expressions available in the Italian language – ‘per cortesia’, ‘per favore’ and ‘per piacere’ – creates a fair deal of confusion as to what form should be used and in what social circumstances.

Unfortunately, there is no official grammar rule on how to juggle the above-mentioned expressions and their use is mostly regulated by unwritten social rules and etiquette. So, to help you familiarise yourselves with the noble art of saying ‘please’ in Italian, here’s a breakdown of what each form is used for and, above all, on what occasions.

Of the three forms used by locals, ‘per cortesia’ is surely the most peculiar. The expression’s literal translation would be something along the lines of ‘as an act of courtesy’ or ‘as a kindness’, though, of course, it is generally rendered into English with the catch-all ‘please’.

According to tacit social rules, ‘per cortesia’ and its kin adverb ‘cortesemente’ are generally employed in formal settings, especially in interactions with people one is not acquainted with or does not know very well. So, for conversations with anyone that you might consider a stranger, this is the go-to expression.

Q: Mi scusi, ci potrebbe portare il conto, per cortesia?

A: Certo, arrivo subito.

Q: Excuse me, could you please get us the bill?

A: Sure, I’ll be right with you.

Q: Mi perdoni il disturbo, Dottor Rossi. Riuscirebbe a mandarmi i documenti in questione entro sera, per cortesia?

A: Certo. Provvedo subito a mandarli.

Q: I’m sorry to disturb you, Dr Rossi. Could you please send me the documents in question by this evening?

A: Sure. I’ll send them right away.

As you can see from the above examples, ‘per cortesia’ is usually placed at the end of a question and it is generally used together with the so-called ‘polite form’ (forma di cortesia), that is by addressing the person you’re communicating with as ‘Lei’ and conjugating verbs in the third person singular. 

The ‘polite form’ is usually scrapped in informal settings and so is ‘per cortesia’. Notably, in ordinary conversations with friends, family or other acquaintances, Italians switch to the use of ‘tu’ (i.e. they address the speaker with verbs in the second person singular) and simultaneously opt for either ‘per favore’ or ‘per piacere’.

The difference in meaning between the two expressions is somewhat negligible, so much so that they are often used interchangeably by most native speakers. 

However, for the sake of nitpicking, while both forms are used to ask something of people one knows very well, ‘per piacere’ is specifically used for fairly urgent and/or dramatic pleas. In other words, when you’re begging someone to do something, ‘per piacere’ is the right expression for the job at hand.

Q: Giampietro, la tua camera è un disastro. Puoi pulirla per piacere? Abbiamo ospiti a cena stasera.

Q: Giampietro, your bedroom is a mess. Can you please tidy up? We’re having people over for dinner tonight.

Q: Lo so che non ti piace come persona ma puoi fare uno sforzo e provare ad essere gentile, per favore?

Q: I know you don’t like her but can you please make an effort and try to be nice?

Q: Mi puoi prestare una penna, per favore? Mi sono dimenticato l’astuccio.

A: Ancora? Neanche per sogno! 

Q: Could you lend me a pen? I forgot to bring my pencil case.

A: Again? No way!

Hopefully, the above scenarios have given you an idea of the (very slight) difference between ‘per favore’ and ‘per piacere’. However, please bear in mind that the former will get the job done in almost any informal conversation, so, when in doubt, go for that and you’ll hardly ever go wrong.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.