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!
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