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”, or at least some of them, are often included in the drink price. And their quantity, qality and substance varies greatly by region, restaurant and bar.

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 do 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, bars get competitive with their aperitivi and offerings can be very generous indeed.

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…)

With snacks in such abundance, there’s certainly no risk of that one cocktail going to your head.

But when there’s this much food, the question is: when is an aperitivo no longer just an aperitivo?

Some people might call these large buffets an aperitivo rinforzato: a ‘reinforced’ or ‘beefed-up’ aperitivo.

But it’s also increasingly known as apericena, as this ritual is becoming a replacement for dinner, or cena,

The concept is great for anyone on a budget, or those who just don’t feel like cooking. Perhaps 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 indulged in an Italian aperitivo buffet, or apericena, now you know. it’s time to give it a try.

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Italian expression of the day: ‘Avere un diavolo per capello’

No need to blow your top about this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Avere un diavolo per capello'

At one point or another, we’ve all had un diavolo per capello – ‘a devil by the hair’.

This isn’t a devil on your shoulder – the little voice encouraging you do so something bad or mischievous.

The demon is this phrase isn’t devious but seething, making the person whose locks it is clutching furious, enraged, or extremely irritable.

State attenti alla signora Russo, ha un diavolo per capello stamattina. 
Watch out for Mrs. Russo, she’s in a foul mood this morning.

Ha abbandonato la riunione con un diavolo per capello.
He walked out of the meeting in a fury.

You might picture someone tearing their hair out in rage, or a furious djinn perched on someone’s head directing their movements.

Angry Inside Out GIF by Disney Pixar

Another common Italian expression involving the devil is fare il diavolo a quattro.

This phrase can mean any of raising hell – either by causing a ruckus or kicking up a fuss – or going to great lengths to get something.

Ha fatto il diavolo a quattro quando le hanno detto che l’orario di visita era finito e non l’hanno fatta entrare.
She screamed blue murder when they told her visiting hours were over and wouldn’t let her in.

Ho fatto il diavolo a quattro per ottenere quel permesso.
I fought like hell to get that permit.

It’s unclear quite how a phrase which literally translates as something along the lines of ‘doing the devil by four’ came to have its current meaning – according to the Treccani dictionary, there are a couple of explanations.

One is that in some profane medieval art that involved religious imagery, the devil was often depicted along with the number four.

Another is that when the devil was represented on stage, he had so many different guises that four actors were required to play him in order to avoid having too long a time between costume changes.

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