Visiting the Langhe region of Italy is incredibly good for the soul. My second visit there reminded that life, friends, beauty, art, nature and of course, food and wine, are central to happiness. La dolce vita may seem cliché until you visit this area and realize, they are living it! Take for instance the concept of aperitivi. In America, the closest equivalent is what we call “Happy Hour,” a two for one beer special. These are discount deals aimed to draw customers. In Piemonte, Italy it is different; aperitivi is a way of life. It is what you do on your way home from work. From approximately six to eight in the evening, friends meet friends to celebrate and enjoy life. Restaurants and cafes serve cocktails. Popular are light libations such as the Aperol Spritz composed of Aperol, sparkling wine and soda. Another classic selection is the Negroni, which includes gin, Campari and vermouth. Just as you are settling into your aperitif, you server arrives with a complimentary plate of sumptuous meats, cheeses, sandwiches and of course potato chips. Yes, you heard me correctly, potato chips.
Aperitivi is inexpensive. Our typical aperitivi bills across the Langhe were roughly $10 - $20 euro, total for two people. I am going to break this down a bit. Cocktails during aperitivi come with amazing free food, in Italy! This does sound like nirvana and it is, but there is a refinement expected for such luxuries. Italians typically do not overindulge. Much like their café (coffee), where they order one small shot of espresso, drink and leave, aperitivi is not an all-night affair. Typically, you meet your friends for one drink, whoop it up, and then go home to your life. You rarely see a mobile phone; instead you see friends engaging, laughing and enjoying each other. Even though there is a plate of exquisite food in front of you, you thoroughly enjoy a few nibbles and leave the remainder because you will have dinner shortly.
Designed to be light, cocktails like the Aperol spritz, in all of their orange beauty, are wonderful sippers. Whether you are headed home to your family or off to a dinner out on the town, aperitivi is designed to light the way.
I would like to write more, but it is 5:50 pm….La dolce vita my friends!