Summer Means Aperitivo in Italy

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.

The menu:

  • 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)

For dessert:

Aperitivo at my house

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.

Fresh pesto pasta

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  1. Giulia says

    Wow, great photos! How do you roast your veggies? On the barbecue or on one of those grill press thingies?

  2. says

    Yum! Good thing you didn’t go to any trouble…. hahah My favorite aperitivo is Campari and Orange juice! I had one last night as a matter of fact! :OD My favorite snacks while enjoying them are peanuts. boring, but good. haha Or else, when they bring you the yummy little pizzas. But your food looks way better then any bar food I have seen!

  3. says

    Wow, woman! Look at you go! Very impressive indeed.

    My fave aperitivo drink is probably Aperol Soda. Never thought I’d find myself saying that, since the first time I tried it years ago, I proclaimed that it tasted exactly like Orange Vicks 44. Which it probably still does. Just one of my many “acquired” tastes!!

    I also love Sambuca with a bit of water and ice, because it reminds me of being in Greece, but I don’t think Sambuca is typical before dinner. I just sneak it as an aperitivo at home.

  4. Giulia says

    Thanks for the link to the grill. You know what’s funny, I have one of those sitting in my kitchen cabinets and I never thought to use it for my roasted veggies! The only difference mine has is that there aren’t handles on the side like in the link you provided, yet my handle is right in the middle of it. I think I am gonna dust the darn thing off and start putting it to better use.

  5. says

    Wow, what a spread! That is exactly my favorite kind of party to give and to attend. There is something about “grazing” that puts people at ease. I have been in those hot Milanese summers and I find it impossible to drink wine until it has cooled off a bit (regardless of where I am.) My choice of aperitivo is almost always Campari with soda (not the bottled kind.) If I am in the States, I love Lillet Blanc over ice with a twist of orange. I miss the bars in Italy where the early evening snack and drink at a bar is a beautiful social ritual. Lastly, I just posted one of my favorie anitipasti on my blog yesterday. Check it out. I use lima beans, but fava or other broad beans would work. Oh, and your fritatta looks fabulous. I will have to try that one.

  6. says

    Yeah, what happy hour fun! Aperitivo for me not only means the fine nibbles, but also a chance to strut about with Maddie, who of course, luuuuvs the tasty snacks! ;-)

  7. says

    Nice spread, what a great way to entertain.

    Re: my favorite aperitivo, does a mojito count? I love them. We don’t have same concept here. You might get some chips or peanuts or you can order some apps.

  8. says

    this looks lovely! i love aperitivi too (although the macerata scene isn’t quite as exciting as that of milan!)…what a great idea for a little summer get-together.

  9. says

    My favorite summer aperitivo is the negroni or a vodka martini based on a negroni.
    We often served Lemoncello with cranberry juice to our friends. I also enjoy a portonic (white Porto with tonic water).

    Your party must have been fun and delicious. Perfect idea for a summer event.

  10. says

    This is one of the few routines (because in Italy, there are so few) I fall back into when visiting Shelley in Rome. Its always fun to see what they’ll bring you with your drink. We had a great aperitivo in Ischia overlooking the harbor.

    You also look like quite the hostess – what a spread!

  11. one of your guests says

    It’ s always a pleasure to come and visit your house!
    Not only for the delicious things you cook, but also for the great time we spend when you are around.
    Thanks for inviting me :o)
    Sara, your watermelon granita… simply FAN-TA-STI-CA!!

  12. Marilyn says

    I’m sitting at my desk at work and wishing I could be enjoying apertivo——– everyone should enjoy a touch of Italy every day!!!!!!!! thank you for sharing this experience and all it’s wonderful cultural benefits—–

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