Italian Aperitivo: Eating on the Cheap

Posted on October 14, 2011

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Here’s a secret all students abroad in Europe should know about: Italian aperitivo. Enjoying aperitivos will not only give you a great cultural experience — they’ll save you money!

Here’s an introduction to the Italian aperitivo, and tips on a DIY-aperitivo you can use to save money anywhere in the world.

By Hayley Bisceglia

Translated, aperitivo technically means aperitif, or “a small drink of alcoholic liquor taken to stimulate the appetite before a meal.” Many Italian bars and cafes offer an aperitivo, consisting of platters of bite-sized hors d’oeuvres included in the price of one alcoholic drink. Since a drink usually costs around 5 euros, the amount of food that comes with them far outweighs the cost of your cocktail. You can easily refill your plate several times, and get a cheap dinner along with a drink. For Italians, the aperitivo is similar to the American happy hour. After work, during a date, or as a simple way to start an evening, it’s an economical and fun option.

For most Italians, the aperitivo means having one drink and one small plate of food before heading out to a restaurant for a proper meal. For the study abroad student, however, it can represent a full meal. Aperitivos usually start around 6:30 p.m. and last until 9:00 p.m., and most run Thursdays through Saturdays. Once there, you buy a drink and take your pick of unlimited free food displayed on platters. Yes, free food. Buffet style and yours for the taking, there is nothing wrong with going up for more once you’ve cleared your plate.

If you don’t have the luxury of living or traveling to Italy, don’t worry. You can have your own aperitivo almost anywhere in the world. Stop by any grocery store or mini-market, pick up a bottle of wine or two for a few Euros each, and then buy some bread, cheese, grapes and other snacks. Pick a beautiful spot with a nice sun-set view, and you just created a cheap, easy, and fun evening with friends.

If you visit Florence, check out the following restaurants or bars with great aperitivos:

  • Kitsch, Piazza Beccaria, Viale Gramsci 1R: Commonly known as THE best aperitivo in all of Firenze, you absolutely must go to Kitsch. Near the Duomo, it might be a bit out of the way, but completely worth it — so go hungry. Kitsch serves dish after dish of pastas, meats, vegetables, potatoes, and new platters are brought out constantly. The drinks are divine and the atmosphere is young and fun. People know about this place so make sure to get there by 7:00 p.m.
  • Slowly, Via Porta Rossa, 63/R: Located just down the block from Mercato Nuovo (the market with the statue of the pig whose nose everybody rubs), Slowly is in a prime location for anyone visiting or living in the city center. Drinks are a little pricier (10 Euros) but when they’re served to you with fresh flower petals and garnished in the most beautiful of ways, you see that the effort and presentation is meaningful and special. Music to dance to, heaping bowls, and they keep their aperitivo open until 10:30 p.m. so you can hit the town when you’re done.
  • Moyo, Via dei Benci, 23: Trendy and loud, the names of the drinks at Moyo include the “Orgasmo” and the “Striptease” for 7 Euros. The food itself is less than that of Kitsch and Slowly (Moyo mainly serves staples like mini pizzas, simple pastas, breads and cheeses) but the beats are hot and the interior is club-like. Not only that, but Moyo is on the same street as popular bars like Red Garter and Kikuya, making your walking time mere minutes.
  • Golden View Open Bar, Via de Bardi, 58/R: This is a perfect example of a gorgeous upscale restaurant that is often out of the study abroad student’s budget. Thankfully, they have aperitivo! Each food is placed on bite size plates that make you feel like you’re elegantly dabbling in each taste as you sip your prosecco or Campari Spritz. Again, new foods are continually presented. Golden View is right on the Arno River and has a stunning vista of the Ponte Vecchio. At night, a live jazz band performs, adding magic to the atmosphere and reminding you how lucky you are to be in Florence.

Countless bars and restaurants in Italy serve aperitivo and finding new places to try and sample is one of the most fun things you can do for dinner. Even though it’s traditionally a pre-dinner drink and small snack, no one minds or even cares if you take advantage of all aperitivo has to offer and eat the best for less.

What’s your favorite aperitivo or aperitif spot in Europe? Let us know in the comments section!

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Posted in: FOOD