Aperitivo time is the perfect antidote to cure whatever ails you. During that blessed and blissful hour (or two, or three) of easygoing snacking and drinking and talking, time slows, and stress slips away. I love aperitivo time in Rome because it can be anything you want. It’s that in-between time of day — not work, not dinner — when you can meet as few or as many friends for as long or as short as you like and drink as much or as little as you like. Many other ‘meals’ in Italy have so many rules. But with aperitivo, it’s a social opportunity that you can put your own spin on.
Yes, you may drink as much or as little as you wish, but during aperitivo time, no one seems to drink too much. Drunkenness is not the objective, and it helps that many of the favored drinks are relatively low in alcohol: a glass of wine, a spritz of some kind. In the latter category, a friend introduced me to the Pirlo, a classic from his native Brescia in northern Italy. The recipe is as simple as it gets: Campari and a dry, sparkling white wine — ideally Pignoletto frizzante.
And the effects of drink are always mitigated by the presence of food: Good, salty cheese, cured meats, bread and olives frequently appear, but I had pizza, and even sashimi, at aperitivo gatherings. The ritual is equally unfussy at home in a small group before dinner or in a crowd at a bar.
Aperitivo time is among the most civilized drinking traditions I’ve ever witnessed. There is no pressure, no pretension: It’s all unhurried, unforced pleasure. “Piano, piano,” they say in Rome. Slowly, gently. Cheers!!!!!