A visit to Italy certainly will entail an introduction to aperitivi: the post-work, pre-dinner cocktail hour that seems fairly mandatory. Drinks include beer, wine, and cocktails – especially the alla moda Spritz – generally made with aperol and prosecco.
It is similar to an American Happy Hour in its timing and function, but they are not exactly the same. Happily – since dinner in Italy occurs much later than it does for me in the States – the Italian version contains a good amount of food. Drinks ordered at a bar come with portions of different foods.
These can be as simple as chips and olives, a bit more ambitious with sfiziosi like pizza and deep fried and stuffed olives, or spectacular like the stuzzichini of the North. Stuzzichini is, really, a buffet of all sorts of meats, cheeses, and other foods that are eaten with aperitivi. I’m reminded of a bar in Torino that offered a free feast, including freshly cooked mushroom risotto with our prosecco aperitivo.
Our aperitivi in Spain were limited mainly to drinks, but certainly one can take aperitivi at home, with all manner of accompanying sfiziosi.