As days get longer and temperature warmer, I feel an irresistible lightness of the heart and a desire for living life at its fullest, enjoying all the best it has to offer. One of my favourite activities, then, besides laying in the sun all day except for the occasional swim in the ocean and the pit-stop at the bar for gelato and/or caffé shekerato, is heading to the beach shack, or the town centre, or the table under the gazebo in the garden, and grab a glass of something refreshing, possibly slightly alcoholic and bitter, or at least bubbly, that Italians call aperitivo.
Hard not to love it – in any of the above mentioned forms. Each person, it seems, has a special way of enjoying it, being a secret corner of his/her hometown, a tailor-made drink, a group of friends… As a matter of fact, after an animated virtual exchange of thoughts and reflections on aperitivo in Italy, we girls of Italian Table Talk thought to bring the topic in broad daylight and to share everything – including secret tips and succulent recipes on these pages.
Without further ado, then, here is what you will find in this episode of Italian Table Talk. Emiko will open the dances with an introduction to the world of aperitivo Italian style, with its unwritten rules, and gives some tips on what to drink an eat for a real-deal aperitivo. Giulia will then take us deeper, into the streets and piazzas of Florence, telling us about aperitivo as a social ritual, and gifting us with a recipe for some tasty nibbles to go with your drinks – fried mozzarella balls (mozzarella in carrozza). Finally, Jasmine will take us to Milan, the capital of the rich and opulent aperitivo Italian style, and will share thoughts and a recipe to make her favourite drink – Negroni Sbagliato.
As for me, I told you already quite a bit about my relationship with aperitivo. The truth is, I love it so much there is always something more I would love to say, or I feel I should say. Apertivo, to me, is not just the drink. Far from its etymological meaning (aperitivo, from the latin word aperire, “to open”, states something that both begins the meal and also prepares the stomach for receiving the food, hence facilitating digestion), aperitivo in my view is a world where the drink is at its core, but where the atmosphere, time of the day, mood, people are also key.
If I close my eyes and dream about the best scenario for a perfect aperitivo, I see a small Venetian Campo (square) bathed in the warmth of a summer evening light. The square is not crowded, but lively with people gathering and forming small, chatty groups standing at the doorsteps of the most popular bars – popular not because they are trendy, but because they are genuine, reasonably priced, and with a reassuring, convivial, familiar feeling to them. I see a handful of friends around me, each of them with their drink in hand: someone has spritz, some others Negroni, some went for a classic ombra (glass of wine), some for a glass of bubbly prosecco… All of us cheering, suddenly relaxed by the simple presence of each other as we chat away. I see someone going back for a refill and some nibbles – some olives, perhaps a handful of potato chips, or a few little bruschettine or cicchetti. I see the day passing by, and a feeling of light-hearted simple joy surrounding me. I open and close my eyes again, and I think of those nights in Padova, during university, when we were drinking spritz on a Wednesday night (il mercoledì universitario), in Piazza delle Erbe from dusk to midnight. There was little food involved there but just the pleasure of letting the books closed and feeling idol and light for one evening a week.
This is perhaps why I dislike the modern version of aperitivo – with music, big buffets, dressed up people and what not. I perceive it as a distortion of my beloved, scruffy and low-key Venetian-style. To the modern phrase “andiamo all’aperitivo” [let’s go to the aperitivo], I much prefer the good old “andiamo a bere uno spritz” [let’s go and drink an aperitivo]: the core is the drink, and obviously, the people sharing the moment with us – little else matters.
Far from the motherland and the places that made me fall in love with aperitivo, I have been consuming the pleasure of aperitivo at home more and more often. Surely, it lacks the atmosphere of a Venetian piazza, but it wins in coziness compared to a crowded bar whenever I don’t feel in the mood for it. Wrapped in my lounge clothes, some music in the background, I mix up a drink that changes depending on the mood and on the availability; some nibbles are waiting on the table, nothing complicated and yet flavoursome and inviting. Our drinks of choice usually fall under the paradigm of Spritz or Gin Tonic, unless we feel particularly adventurous. There are times, too, when just a glass of good white wine or sparkling prosecco would do the trick…
Hard boiled eggs with anchovy (meso ovo, in local dialect) are a traditional Venetian cicchetto, which can be found in almost all the respectable bàcari in town. A poor dish, good for satisfying the hunger for proteins of workers and fishermen as an alternative to seafood, hard boiled eggs have always been one of the easiest and cheapest snacks to go with the glass of wine before lunch or dinner. Alongside baccalà mantecato (salted cod cooked in milk), marinated anchovies, nerve salad, beans, squids and fried sardines with onion (sarde in saor), the meso ovo is part of the classic cicchetti platter – all good alongside a couple of slices of warm, grilled polenta, and your drink of choice. These eggs are a tasty nibble on the street as much as at home – and as simple, everyday ingredients are used, it is extremely easy to get it ready on the table it for a last-minute, home-y aperitivo – why not, Venetian style, with a light spritz bianco (half wine and half sparkling water, plus a slice of lemon).
Meso Ovo con l’Acciuga
freshly ground pepper & rock sea salt, to taste
Place the eggs in a large saucepan filled with cold water. Place over medium heat.
When the water boils, remove from the heat, cover with a lid, and let the eggs cook in the hot water for about 10 minutes. Drain and cool under running cold water.
Peel the eggs and cut them in halves with a sharp knife. Distribute the halves on a serving plate and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roll the anchovies and place them over each egg half. Fit a caper in the middle. Serve.
Meso Ovo con l’Acciuga
sale e pepe qb
Sodate le uova con la vostra tecnica preferita – il giallo dovrà essere ben sodo. Raffreddate in acqua fredda corrente, sbucciate e tagliate a metà.
Disponete le uova su un piatto, arrotolateci sopra l’acciuga, decorate col cappero, condite con sale e pepe e servite.