Aperitivo, the Italian happy hour, comes from the Latin term ‘ aprire’ which means ‘to open’. It relates to the opening of the stomach in preparation for a meal to stimulate the metabolism and work up hunger! In Italy, we literally eat and drink to eat and drink! There are a few go-to aperitivi in Italy to really get into the cultural vibes, like an Aperol Spritz, but fine bubbles always do the trick. Franciacorta is my poison. Aperitivo is usually served with bites of complimentary food— depending on where you are a fusion of local ingredients at available as well as price variations. I study the gastronomic background in advance but always leave room for surprises from chefs!
Each Italian region has their own twist and it is completely acceptable to aperitivo before lunch and before dinner.
Select your wine and save the bubbles for before or after your meal. Red and white wines are naturally serious business. The safest approach is to drink a wine from the region that you are in! When confused simply ask to try ‘vorrei assagiare’!
If a wine has been bottled for more than of a pair of years it ought to be left out to breath in a decanter, if one is not available the biggest glass possible, swish and swirl and let it sit for up to 25 minutes causing a chemical reaction in front of you.
Water in Italy doesn’t come free of charge to your table. You order bottled water, specifying between ‘aqua frizzante’ (sparkling) or ‘aqua naturale’ (still).
The antipasto is the appetizer (goes well with your apertivo). Sometimes the menu will be divided by antipasti di mare (from the sea) or di terra (from the land). Since Italian food is regional, sweeping generalizations on what you’ll find don’t work, but that’s the idea!
On the menu, the “first plate” is the opening act, and carbs are center stage: pasta, risotto, gnocchi, polenta, etc.
The “second plate” is the featured performer, the proteins are where it’s at: fish, meat, and cheese!!
Contorni are side plates. Think grilled vegetables, fried zucchini blossoms, braised greens, fresh tomatoes.
After lunch or dinner, or an early afternoon snack if you like this sort of thing – it’s time to indulge. It’s not called ‘the sweet life’ for no good reason! Naturally gelato steals the thunder, it is highly important to know where exactly to get your fix as there are plenty of low quality shops with their fluffy and colourful ice-cream however, it doesn’t do the trick for us cultured folks. Your safest best to is ask a local. Please, do not walk into a place because it’s easy on the eyes or its the first shop that you find.
If you’re in gourmet restaurant, you should definitely experiment!
When you ask for a caffè in Italy, it means espresso. After dinner, it is common to drink an espresso or a macchiato (espresso stained with milk). However, if, you order a cappuccino after dinner, or after lunch, the waiters might scorn you; here, cappuccino is considered strictly a morning drink. Tourists, therefore, shouldn’t be shocked when the waiter refuses to grant their cappuccino requests “for your own good”. You also might order a corrected coffee—caffè corretto is spiked with something like sambuca, or grappa!
Just when you thought, ‘mama mia! I could not possibly ingest anything else,’ you can. There’s a special cavity you grow when in Italy, it’s a third stomach, and it holds the ammazzacaffè. The word ammazzacaffè means “coffee killer.” It’s a little downer after your upper. A coffee killer is a strong spirit or liquor, like grappa (40%; made from grape skins), limoncello (the yellow stuff; made of lemons) or amaro, my favourite (bitters; aids in digestion). Preferably it is better to not order a cocktail—it’s too much cold liquid after dinner. The idea here is short and strong.