21 Mar Learn More About Aperitivo Hour
What usually comes to mind when people are asked about Italian culture? Maybe it’s the Renaissance sculptures and paintings they are celebrated for, or it could be their gothic architecture. Of course, who would forget about the world-famous spaghetti?
However, one other part of Italian culture that people would argue is the most fun of them all: Aperitivo hour. Think happy hour, but a bit fancier and in an Italian cafe.
What is Aperitivo?
Historically, Aperitivo was a beverage that would be served before meals. Now, it is simply the tradition of consuming drinks well before dinner. Aperitif is what the drinks are called, while Aperitivo is the event of having both food & beverages.
Although it is the alcoholic kind being served often, non-alcoholic Aperitivo drinkare available. The name itself is derived from the Latin word “aperire” which means “to open.” So, Aperitivo is intended to stimulate or “open up” your appetite before a meal. Thus, drinks of this kind are usually dry instead of sweet.
The drink typically contains bittersweet liqueurs or Vermouth. It is said that the logic behind the tradition of Aperitivo is that the human body is programmed to react negatively and relate bitter tastes to poison. Thus, the body looks for other nutrients to counteract the bitterness. This is why Aperitivo drinks are meant to be served before dinner.
History of Aperitivo
Although the specific origin of Aperitivo has been debated, most people agree that it started in Northern Italy. In particular, one origin story that many believe to be true is that Aperitivo began in Piedmont, the capital city of Turin, in 1786. Antonio Benedetto Carpano had accidentally mixed vanilla, saffron, wormwood, and other aromatic herbs to create Vermouth.
He then claimed it to be the perfect pre-dinner beverage. Its perfect balance of aromatic and bitter herbs with fortified white wine immediately became a hit in their region until it eventually spread throughout the entire country. And thus, the pre-dinner ritual was born.
Of course, having drinks before a meal isn’t something unique to Italians, but it is more of an occasion in Italy than in other places. It is a time to relax and unwind after an exhausting day at work and socialize with friends over cocktails and finger foods while getting ready for the main dinner course a couple of hours later.
This Aperitivo tradition usually occurs when the sun sets, from 7 PM to 9 PM. Some bars and restaurants even open as early as 6 PM. For example, even cafes, like our Italian cafe in Calgary, partake in Aperitivo hours.
The ritual can vary from region to region, but you typically order a drink and get complimentary snacks. The snacks can also vary, ranging from a little plate of bruschetta and pate to a small pizza to a buffet-style full of pasta salads, breadsticks, etc.
This is also a great time for tourists and visitors to mingle with the locals and experience the variety of exquisite beverages the country offers. This is when the bars and restaurants scene starts coming to life.
Apperitivo in Calgary
Like everything else, the style of Aperitivo differs in each location. Milan, for example, has been dubbed the unofficial capital of Aperitivo, with its lively bars and extravagant buffets. They even have their version of the origin of Aperitivo where, according to them, it wasn’t Antonio Benedetto Carpano who started the tradition but instead, it was Gaspare Campari, the same person who invented the eponymous Campari, another popular apéritif.
Wherever you go to celebrate Aperitivo hours, the refreshing cocktails, savoury snacks, and lively atmosphere are still present. It’s easy to see why this cultural phenomenon has become a highlight to the lives of so many. Join us for our take on happy hour at our Italian Café in Calgary on 17th ave!