There are such moments in a day when, overwhelmed by tiredness, we start feeling like having something good to eat and drink in a company nice people. From this need the aperitivo was born: one the most popular culinary trend in the past years, widespread in Italy and Italian restaurants in Warsaw. We used to meet up for lunch or dinner, but currently the aperitivo, which has its place before the meal, is a moment for spending some time with friends and talking while having a good drink and all kinds of different starters.

What do we serve for aperitivo, then?

There are no fixed rules, some people prefer Crodino (a non-alcoholic beverage popular in Italy) or juice made from fresh fruit, others choose some alcohol: sparkling wine, white wine or white Martini with vodka, and some nuts, crisps, small sandwiches, cold pasta and many other delicacies.

The beginnings of aperitivo date back to the 19th century in Turin, when Antonio Benedetto Carpano produced the first white-wine based drink aromatized by more than thirty types of herbs and spices.

This is how vermouth was created, which soon became the synonym for aperitivo and the symbol of the city. The aristocrats of that time met in elegant bars and drank Vermouth which was served with various additions, from starters to traditional cheese.

After vermouth the first cocktail appeared, and crisps, olives, indispensable peanuts, and sandwiches were put on the tables. The form of such meeting remained unchanged until the eighties. A turning point occurred when an Anglo-Saxon idea of “happy hour” was introduced and then adopted to Italian customs. It was also a time when traditional evening meetings were given a new name - aperitivo.

Apart from traditional bars, wine bars and wineries started to be set up (especially in big cities in the North) where young people – but not only them – can taste drinks with exotic names. Crisps and nuts gave way to so-called “finger food”: snacks that whet the appetite and are tasty to everyone: from classical to more sophisticated, such as peaches and bacon or pecorino (traditional Italian cheese) with figs and honey. These are actually the real dishes and it sometimes happens that, with all the laughing and talking, aperitivo stretches on till late and replaces the dinner.

Olives and nuts are over, the clients are now offered a rich and varied buffet, where you can also find exotic flavours creatively combined with Italian cuisine, for instance goulash with couscous. However, the mood of those meetings remains unchanged since they became an obligatory part of every day for many Italians.

Nowadays, aperitivo before dinner or supper (Apericena, from cena – supper) is just a tradition, and not only excellent drinks are served but also all kinds of dishes, according to the chef’s fantasy or guests’ taste. All of this transforms aperitivo into another meal, in the evening called Apericena.

Aperitivo takes place between 6 and 10 p.m. The Association of Italians in Poland organizes such evenings in Warsaw, which gives an occasion to meetings of a large Polish-Italian community.

It is up to you to decide where you want to go and try Italian-style aperitvo. There is a wide variety of places where experienced bartenders-alchemists mix up different ingredients in order to create drinks of yet unknown taste.

These are some drinks and cocktails which are served for aperitivo in Italy – but not only there:
Fruit Aperitvo, Aperol e Mateus, Bloody Mary, white Martini with lemon, Alexander, Crodino, Bacardi with Coke, Bentley, Daiquiri, Brachetto d’Aqui, Fragolino, Rosolio, Passito, Moscato, Cinzano, Grappa, Limoncello, Negroni, Paradiso, Mojito, Pink Lady, Rum with mint and lime, Sangria, Prosecco, sparkling wine, Champagne, Tequila Sunrise, Martini with vodka, Sex on the Beach, Cuba Libre, Angelo Azzurro, Cosmopolitan, Invisibile.

And these are some bars in Warsaw where aperitivo takes place:
Casa sicilia, Bonu, Doppio Zero, Mela Verde, San Lorenzo, DiVino, Restro, Endorfina, Da Aldo.

Giovanni Genco

Translated by: Iwona Białek