When you hear the words Italian aperitivo, what comes to mind? A happy hour? That’s partially right. But it’s not the whole story.
Yes, aperitivo is like a cocktail hour. But it’s one where the food tends to involve much more than the peanuts or crisps you’d get back home. And, unlike American or British happy hours, it has nothing to do with discounts (there aren’t any) or getting drunk with colleagues.
Instead, for Italians, aperitivo is a glorious couple of hours – generally between 6/7pm and 9pm – when they can relax post-work over a glass of wine or an Aperol spritz and some tasty snacks.
Since most Italians eat lunch around 1pm or 2pm and dinner is around 9pm, it’s also a good way to re-start the metabolism in order to work up an appetite for dinner. For visitors, hitting up an aperitivo can be just as useful. It’s a great way to experience local culture, people-watch or unwind with a drink after a long day of sightseeing – and to take the edge off your hunger while waiting for that 9pm meal!
A northern Italian tradition
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Italian food customs are very regional. That goes for aperitivo too. Milan is, hands down, the best place for aperitivo in Italy. This is where the bars are buzzing and the selection of both food and drink for aperitivo is excellent. The further south you go, the harder it is to find a “proper” aperitivo, but the trend is catching on. Rome, Florence and even Naples all now have aperitivo scenes, even if the Milanese might scoff at them, and many of the establishments are very lively and great for people-watching in the evenings.
Want to enjoy a real Italian aperitivo in Hong Kong?
ilBelPaese in Sheung Wan offers a great one, from Monday–Saturday. This is a buffet-style aperitivo, where you fill your plate with the food you’d like for the cost of only one drink – perfect for after-work chill-out time.
Where: ilBelPaese is Casa Rinaldi, 299 Queen‘s Road Central, Sheung Wan
When: Monday–Saturday, 6–8pm