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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Small bowls, Olives, and the Art of the Apéro

[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 Apéro
In 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]

A Mixed-Apéro
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.


  1. I got excited to see that baguette :) Making me hungry! Luckily, it's almost apéro time....

  2. Oh, how I miss being home!

    D and I are all about the mixed apero (I like that term). Pastis, muscat, Suze, Banyuls, Martini, or even a G&T can find their way to our table. We do the kir or kir royale too. I'm a champagne girl too!

    Pair any of the above with tapenade and toasts, olives, cacahuetes, saucissons, nuts... Oh how I love apero!

  3. I LOVE this time of day, Tuula! Your photos of the bread and cheeses are just fabulous and have me longing to be off work and chatting 'round the table with dear friends and a glass of wine. Lovely. :-)

  4. I am in love with apéro! It's definitely one of the things I love most about living here.

  5. I love this post! :)

    We enjoy the apero hour quite frequently at the Gourmantic household. Our is a mixture of the French and Italian styles.

    In France I order a Kir Royale or a Pastis depending on the season. In Italy, it's hard to beat a Spritz. OK, this is making me thirsty now! :)

  6. Merci bien ladies for the lovely comments! Yep, really can't go wrong with Apéro time no matter what your style is (or where you live!).

    I could totally do any of the above drinks - Kir, Pastis, Martini, Champagne or Spritz..but when it comes to the food, tend to pile it on - salami & cheese are my favorites. Wouldn't trade them for anything...even if I can't seem to get back into my fall jeans :) xx