Aperitivo is one of my favorite reasons to live in Italy, right behind gelato and pasta. Also known as aperitif in other parts of the world, it comes from aperitivus or aperire, Latin meaning to open. Open your palate before your meal!
Aperitivo is one of the things Milano does best, and it makes the humid Milanese summer bearable. Between 6-9, depending on the bar, you can get a few potato chips and olives with your drink, or you can get an entire buffet. A traditional aperitif drink will be Campari or Vermouth, or a sweet Brachetto or Prosecco, but more recently many bars are offering any drink as part of their aperitivo list.
Aperitivo at bars in Milan can usually be classified into two categories: there for the food, or there for the scene. The aperitivo at the Diana Majestic will set you back a cool 10 euro for whatever you order, but the accompanying “buffet” is pretty scarce and having a few snacks before you arrive and brush shoulders with numerous models is advised. Be sure to spray with mosquito repellent beforehand – the beautiful garden and fountains outside can attract a lot of wildlife!
Some bars offer hot pasta dishes, deli meats, smoked salmon, rice/pasta salad, fresh focaccia, fruit salads and countless variations of bruschetta and crostini to tempt a drinking crowd. In the winter, risotto and polenta make an appearance at aperitivo. For many single Milanese, often the concept of aperitivo stretches to be their dinner as well, with a “free” drink, and it lets you socialize with friends for a few hours at a pretty low cost. When we get aperitivo in Puglia, I always look forward to fresh mozzarella with my drink.
I had wanted to invite some friends over for a meal this weekend and while my mind was spinning with ideas, the last thing you want to do on a hot summer evening is working over the stove while guests are arriving. And then it came to me: aperitivo! This would be a good time to serve cold dishes and keep things light enough that we could socialize and eat as much as necessary.
- Grilled eggplant
- Grilled zucchine
- Spicy piadina rolls (ricotta + jalapeno/hot pepper)
- Fennel, cucumber, tomato, feta salad
- Fresh pesto salad with tomatoes and mini mozzarella
- Garbanzo, kidney bean and corn salad with vinaigrette
- Frittata with shallots and peas
- Bresaola and rucola
- The last of my Pepper Jack cheese
- Chips (piccante and crushed black pepper)
- Watermelon granita
- Freshly sliced pineapple
I was a little ambitious since I only had a few hours to do everything, including the grocery shopping which is always fun given we have no car. We ended up making a second trip dangerously close to guests arriving to pick up some last-minute drinks. Also, I probably didn’t have buy a whole pineapple or make pesto from scratch right then, but I was trying to edge away from the plastic plates and stale potato chip scene.
Luckily, Milan was blessed with a breeze that evening that helped 10 people be comfortable in our little apartment and kept us drinking and laughing for quite a few hours.
What’s your favorite aperitivo drink? What’s your favorite thing to snack on with your drink?
Fresh Basil Pesto
1 c. basil leaves
40g pecorino romano
handful of pine nuts
1 garlic clove
1/4 c. olive oil (or to your desired consistency)
Pulse ingredients in a food processor until desired consistency is achieved. I like my pesto more chunky than runny.