Ugh! What a wild ride this journey has been with Covid. Today marks this first day of our 15-day lockdown and I’m feeling a little down in the dumps, but my spirit lifts a little when I think about how lucky I was to have celebrated the one last aperitivo with some classmates before the lockdown. Don’t worry, no Covid rules were broken, everyone was safe and abided by the rules and regulations.
Rather than tell you about our last aperitivo (because what happens at aperitivo, stays at aperitivo), I’m gonna share some tips and suggestions so that you can have a fabulous aperitivo too! From drinks to food to atmosphere, there’s a science to having the perfectly imperfect aperitivo party.
Though this goes without saying, make sure you have ample quantities of booze. You might think that you have enough wine but trust me, as the night grows old, vino is as good as water. Though we had three bottles of wine at home, Jasmine and I decided to pick up an extra bottle at the supermarket. Thankfully, our resident chef extraordinaire Anne-Sophie also brought two bottles of wine, while our sommelier Francesco was kind enough to also bring a wonderful bottle of Barbaresco.
That said, if you do the math, that’s one bottle of wine per person. Now, you’d think that would be enough for a casual Thursday night aperitivo. But remember, we are not only foodies and gastronomes and sommeliers, but we are also pandemic-stricken students. When in doubt, always buy more wine and buy a variety. Whether or not your guests drink it all, it doesn’t matter. You’ll surely be hosting another aperitivo in the near future if your guests have a good time.
Though there is a focus on alcohol, ensure you do have some non-alcoholic beverages like Coca-Cola or fruit juice for non-drinkers. Likewise, make sure you have water! There's nothing worse than being dehydrated after a night of drinking.
Next, you must think about food. Never expect that your guests will come bearing gifts. Though Jasmine and I were lucky to have so many great culinary additions to our aperitivo, like locally marinated olives, truffled cheese in oil, chocolates, cakes and more, that might not always happen, so you have to be prepared.
If you’re Italian, usually when you host, your guests will not want for anything. You have taken care of everything. You have purchased enough food to last a famine. And I think that’s beautiful. We can all learn from this. Plus, whatever isn’t eaten means leftovers… a major score in my book!
First and foremost, think about starch. Every Italian or foreigner residing in Italy is a carboholic. They need bread, focaccia, taralli, farinata and grissini like they need air. I can attest to this now that I’ve been living in Italy for almost a month—I don’t know who I was before snacking on focaccia for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
A variety of breads for your different aperitivo snack offerings is also necessary because with all that alcohol (being enjoyed responsibly of course), you need starch to soak the booze and sober up your guests.
Next, stock up classic items like meats and cheeses. Diversity is key so buy some sliced cold cuts, in addition to a hunk of salami or soppresata that you can cut yourself. This variety is not only exciting for the taste buds but also looks aesthetically pleasing on a charcuterie board. We opted for a healthy amount of prosciutto di Parma and a log of local, cured salsiccia.
As for cheeses, everyone is a cheese lover, so I like to delight the cheese lover’s palate. Be sure to pick up some soft or spreadable formaggio, along with something firm and sharp, and also something light and fresh on the palate. We decided on pecorino, truffled Gouda and fig leaf-wrapped robiola.
Equally important to aperitivo are fresh components like pickled veggies, marinated artichokes, roasted peppers, a loaded frittata, assorted olives, and fruits like grapes or figs. These things are great to add some freshness to the evening snacking. Plus, they help balance the more decadent and artery-clogging nibbles of aperitivo.
Also crucial to the snacking buffet are spreads and tapenades. When building the perfect crostini, you need jams and jellies and honeys and spreads. It’s a no-brainer that instantly elevates flavours and makes your charcuterie that much more elegant. We opted for an olive tapenade and spicy pepper spread for our guests.
Finally, you’re gonna need something sweet like chocolates or a simple crostata. Not only is chocolate and cheese a great pairing with wine, but sometimes you just want to indulge your sweet tooth after a long night of charcuterie-board eats. Plus, if you pick up a cake and the night ends early, you have the perfect dessert to go with a coffee. Though our night ended before Cinderella’s carriage turned into a pumpkin, gianduiotti and a hazelnut crostata were welcomed and completely devoured after singing and dancing the dusk away.
For non-food related advice, make sure to have some music playing. Dead silence is always a bit awkward, so try to create that warm atmosphere. Plus, everyone likes music so have the resident dj of your group take charge while you focus on feeding the crowd!
Lastly, try your best to always make your guests feel welcome. It’s a mini party not a funeral. Have fun and share drinks, food and laughter. Don’t worry about making a mess or cleaning up. Focus on the amazing people who came to celebrate the final aperitivo with you and enjoy every moment until that 11 p.m. curfew hits!