Apertivo! Translated into American lingo, it’s basically happy hour but with a little twist. In America, happy hour is known more for discounted drinks and sometimes some discounted food as well. But here in Italy, apertivo is the big social time before dinner. Normally starting anywhere around 6pm – 7pm and running until around 9:30pm or 10:00pm, the concept is pretty simple: buy a drink and you get an unlimited buffet of finger foods. Sometimes the waiters will bring the snack items to your table, such as bread, cheese, salami, olives and potato chips. Other times there will be a spread of food set up inside the restaurant with things such as pasta salad or pasta with ragu sauce. That’s pretty standard, and just enough to tide you over before the main dinner meal.
However, here in Milan apertivo is taken to another level! For a cost of around ten Euro, you’ll get your drink all right, but you’ll also get a bountiful spread of food that can basically replace dinner. And that’s what Lisa and I did for these last two nights, we just filled up on a buffet of pastas, salads, breads, fruits and more. The magic hour is right around 6:30pm, when things aren’t quite super busy and we don’t have to compete with others for the food. We walked past at least twenty restaurants and bars that offered some pretty great looking spreads — some better than others of course — and we were pretty happy with our choices, one of them recommended by the desk clerk at our hotel. Yay for apertivo, Yummy!