|[Aperitivo at Casa del Cinema, Rome]|
While the French cocktail hour is not as big an affair as it's American cousin, happy hour, I still felt compelled (after my tapenade splurge last week) to buy a few ceramic bowls, knives, and colored napkins to be up-to-speed in the apéro-department. Basically, I just like cocktail hour in all it's international forms, and really miss my after-work margaritas & trips to the taco bar in the US. So, I've been thinking a bit about what really makes a good aperitif and how people celebrate pre-dinner festivities around the world.
The Italian Aperitivo
It Italy, it seemed l'aperitivo was pursued with a more drinks + food approach. Wine bars would usually offer a generous "by the glass" selection, and then you could spend your time chatting, sipping, and nibbling your way through a buffet-style arrangement of cold pastas, prosciutto & salames, various cheeses, and (if you were really lucky) warm foccacia bread. You could follow this mini-feast with a meal (or simply a quick pizza), but many beleaguered students, and a few Euro-poor English teachers like myself, often called the evening aperitivo our dinner.
|[Aperitivo plate at Antica Enoteca, Rome]|
The French ApéroIn contrast, the French apéro is a slightly more sophisticated affair. French...sophisticated? Shocking, I know. But, from what I've seen, apéro time is most certainly smaller, more delicate, and generally a precursor to the main event: le diner. Since the idea is to merely "whet the appetite", an apéro at a bar might only be the choice of a cocktail and a bite-size tidbit to get your taste buds "in the mood".
|[Pastis, a French apèro favorite]|
Some typical apéro drinks are Martinis (either rouge or blanc; served straight-up instead of the Sex and the City variety), a Kir Royale (Champagne with a splash of Cassis), and Pastis (favored by folks in the South). There are other regional drinks which I've yet to try, but I'm also always faithful to my hands-down apèro favorite: Champagne. A girl's gotta have some vices...
|[Semi-intact baguette from the market]|
But since we're in the south, and I don't feel tied to any hard & fast apéro-time rules, I usually like to pick up a baguette, olives, cheese, and various spreads at the market for our apéro. There's also the possibility to get prosciutto or other meats and whip-up your own munchies.
|[Large cheese selection at our local shop]|
|[Apèro for two, chez nous]|
Since many evenings it's just an apéro for two, I'm sticking to my mixed-apéro philosophy for the moment, but quick to take my cues from the French as well. Don't think I'll be serving-up any margaritas or nacho-bowls any time soon...
How do you apéro? American-style, a la Italiana, French fancy, or a mix all your own? As a warm-up or dinner itself, it's still one of my favorite times of the day.