if Monday is still a struggle, plan a little happiness, and slow down with one of my favorite Italian rituals
a gift from Hippocrates
We can thank Hippocrates for the Italian pre-dinner ritual of l’aperitivo, the noble descendant of the concoction he devised to stimulate the appetite. His was a sweet white wine infused with fraxinella, absinthe and rue, which meant it offered the added benefit of warding off plagues and pestilence.
Over the centuries, a white wine or Prosecco base has remained a mainstay, often mixed with soda and a bitter, such as Aperol, to make a spritz. Vermouth and Campari make a MiTo, derived from the cities Milano and Torino where they are made. Add soda water and the MiTo becomes an Americano. Or forget the soda water and add gin to make a Negroni. Add Prosecco instead of gin, it becomes the Negroni Sbagliato, which actually means a mistaken Negroni.
But there’s little mistaken about the art of the aperitivo. It is artistry, and not just in the drink. The Italians drink when they eat and and eat when they drink, so this pre-dinner beverage is always accompanied by savory snacks, and is best served with friends. Quantities are never overdone. The only excess comes from the sheer attention to detail.
When I lived in Italy, I could stroll down the road from my apartment to one of Italy’s best kept secrets, Piazza Ducale in Vigevano. There I’d sit outside at one of the many bars to ready my appetite and in fact engage all of my senses, surrounded by the beauty of the 500 year old piazza, and the endless stream of locals, experts in slowing down and enjoying the moment.
Next time you’re in Italy, do as the locals do, preferably in the piazza under a setting summer sun. In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you do before dinner. Do you and your family or friends create special moments before you tuck in? Do you do it with an appetizer, a drink, or both? Might an Italian-style aperitivo be in your near future?