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Italian Aperitivo Culture: What is it?

A time-honored Italian tradition worth checking out, Aperitivo is similar to the American happy hour. A pre-meal ritual meant to open up the appetite, it’s more than just having a drink before dinner.

Partenope Ristorante invites you to enjoy the rich tradition of Italian Aperitivo with us.

Origins of Aperitivo

The term aperitivo comes from the Latin word “aperire”, which means to open. An early form of aperitivo can be traced back to the ancient Romans, whose elaborate banquets often started with a course called “gustatio”. This tasting course featured light appetizers paired with sweet, aromatic wines.

Fast-forward to the Middle Ages, when monks were often the leading medical practitioners. With the advancement in distillation techniques, they were responsible for creating infusions of spices, roots, and fruits in alcohol. While these concoctions certainly had medicinal purposes, they also stimulated the appetite.

The aperitivo we know today emerged in the 18th century when vermouth was created. This fortified wine infused with botanicals became a popular pre-dinner drink due to its unique bitter-sweet taste. Over the 19th and 20th centuries, aperitivo evolved into a cherished social ritual focused on enjoying good company with a delicious pre-dinner drink.

Today, this Italian tradition is spreading around the world. Bars may offer their take on aperitivo, or you can create your own experience at home. 

What is Aperitivo?

Meant to whet the appetite before dinner, aperitivo is a cocktail hour. The word refers to an alcoholic beverage, or apéritif, enjoyed before a meal in the late afternoon or early evening, but it’s more than just a drink.

Apertivo is a social ritual for Italians to unwind after work, catch up with friends, and enjoy the atmosphere. It is a happy hour focused on conversation and light bites. Drinks such as Vermouth, Campari, or Aperol Spritz are usually low in alcohol. Small plates of accompanying food might include olives, bruschetta, cured meats, and cheeses.

Aperitivo Rituals and Traditions

The time for aperitivo usually falls around 6:30 or 7:00 PM. A casual and lively scene, it bridges the workday and unwinding for the evening. 

The drinks are usually light. Campari and soda, Negroni, or a wine spritzer are popular choices. The food is not meant to replace dinner but simply something to have with a drink. Nuts, cheese, olives, and even small pasta dishes might be served. Traditionally, appetizers are complimentary during aperitivo, but this varies depending on the establishment.

A toast with a simple “Cin, cin!” (Cheers!) is customary in Italy.

Unwind and Savor the Moment with Aperitivo at Partenope Ristorante

Aperitivo at Partenope Ristorante allows you to experience this Old World Italian tradition close to home. Some of our most popular aperitivo drinks include:

  • Aperol Spritz: Aperol, prosecco, and soda
  • Frozen Limoncello Spritz: Lucano limoncello, prosecco, lemon
  • Napule: blood orange vodka, bergamot soda, thyme syrup, citrus
  • Manhattan Nero: Evan Williams 1783 small batch bourbon, averna amaro

These are nicely accompanied by the following aperitivo appetizers:

  • Salumi Board: prosciutto di parma, saleme toscana, hot coppa, n’duja, Parmesan, ricotta, Calabrian chili honey, house bread
  • Bruschetta: toasted house bread, garlic, basil, cherry tomato, olive oil, balsamic reduction, parmesan
  • Frittelle: fritters of zucchini, ricotta, parsley, Calabrian honey
  • Pane: tear and share bread with rosemary, sea salt, and olive oil

Contact us today to savor the flavors of Italy. Join us for aperitivo or reserve a table for dinner. We also offer pizza-making classes with our expert pizzaiolo, where you can learn the secrets of Neapolitan-style pizza.

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