Aperitivo con me!
Aperitivo is a social activity originated in Northern Italy that is known build your appetite before dinner. Aperitivo is usually enjoyed between 7 and 9pm, and some Italians also enjoy aperitivo in substitution to dinner. I absolutely fell in love with aperitivo when I visited Italy last year. It's an opportunity to have a night out, enjoy the company of your friends and family, and indulge in amazing food and cocktails. Everyone is living in the moment, and the people you'd be trying to reach are right in front of you.
We spent my friend's birthday in Milan last year and went out in Navigli for aperitivo. Milan is known for their aperitivo, and I learnt why very quickly. Everywhere you look, you'd see groups of people laughing, telling stories, and having the best time. I kept thinking that this is how everyone should spend their birthday- with your loved ones, having some great food, and toasting with a glass of wine. I was so inspired by the whole experience that when I came home I recreated that setting for my birthday. Needless to say, it was the best celebration I've ever had. I love the idea of getting my friends together for aperitivo, and bringing a little bit of Italy home. Aperitivo can be as simple as chips, a meat board, and a bottle of wine, but I love the idea of turning it into a party. Getting my friends together for an aperitivo night has actually become one of my goals for this year, as I hope to spend more time with loved ones, and try more recipes. Here are my tips on how to host a great aperitivo party:
Pick a Theme
I absolutely loved the rustic feel of the aperitivo bars in Italy, and that's the theme I always try to go for. You could also make it more specific to a region of Italy, and find recipes and decor ideas that represent that area. What's great about these parties is that you could go for something very simple, or find ways to make the party more elegant to suit the occasion.
Decor can be very simple, and easy to create on your own. If you're like myself and enjoy
entertaining, it might be worth it to invest in a few pieces that you can reuse for each event.
For my rustic theme, I purchased four wooden crates, and a decorative office sign from HomeSense. You can use the wooden crates as buffet risers, or to display your wine collection. I love the decorative sign to write the theme of the party, or a message to my guests. It's a trendy piece that adds a fun touch to your decor. FORMAL NOTE: If you want to add a bit more elegance to your rustic theme, you can also incorporate floral touches. For my birthday, I put together small arrangements in mason jars with light pink roses and peonies, and displayed them on the food table and other main areas. Another special touch is menu cards! You can use simple web design sites like Canva to create menus and other printed visuals for your guests.
Food and Drink
This is the most important element of the event that ties everything together. Unless you're planning your menu around a specific region of Italy, it's pretty easy to come up with a food and beverage selection. In addition to your buffet, be sure to set up a drink station. You can preselect a few cocktail recipes you'd like to try, and print out recipes for your friends to follow. I usually take care of most of the cooking, and I'll have my friends bring alcohol or basic snacks. Here are the basics for putting together a great menu:
Meat and cheese boards- Italians are perfectly content with some fresh cured meats and bread, and this is probably the most popular thing you'll serve at your party. Depending on the size of the group, you'll want to have at least three to four types of meats (my favourites: prosciutto, capocollo, sopressata, salami), and two to three types of cheeses (my favourites: boconccini, brie, friulano).
Olives- These are a crowd favourite, and go great on a board or on their own.
Pizza/focaccia- Pizza or focaccia is great because it's an item that's filling, and makes you seem like you put a lot of effort into it. I love using already made dough from Nino D'Aversa, and topping it with simple ingredients like mozzarella and zucchini, or brie and rosemary. If you want to save some time, you can also buy these already made from your grocery store or local bakery. These can also be enjoyed with cured meats, or alone.
Bruschetta- Such a simple and flavourful addition to your menu. Slice up a baguette, toast, and rub with garlic. Top with your favourite chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, a bit of salt, and minced garlic.
Grilled/Roasted vegetables- These are quick, easy, and another crowd favourite. I love grilled zucchini and eggplant, topped with olive oil, a bit of salt, and oregano.
Chips- You gotta have a snack in there somewhere! Quite a few aperitivo places in Italy serve salted chips as a casual snack to enjoy with your cocktail of choice.
Throw in a favourite of yours! For my birthday, I added mini arancini to my menu. They're a dish you can purchase from a bakery or frozen at the grocery store. I also loved my Nonna's crocchette, and I've learned to perfect them. There's quite a few variations, but each are easy to make. Basically, add a little something fried to your menu, and it'll be a favourite for sure.
Aperol Spritz- The holy grail of all aperitivo cocktails, and the easiest to make! You only need three ingredients: Aperol, Prosecco, and soda water.
Negroni- Another classic aperitivo cocktail, with three ingredients: Gin, Campari, and Sweet Vermouth.
Wine- You can't go wrong with wine. Even if you're planning to serve mostly cocktails, be sure to keep a couple extra bottles as a backup. This is also an item you can save on! You can find great wines for under $15 at the liquor store.
I hope this post inspires you to throw your own aperitivo party, or has helped you learn something new about Italian culture. Let me know if you enjoyed this post, and I'll be sure to share more of my aperitivo parties with you this year!
Fa la brava,