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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