Here is your guide to how to host the perfect Italian aperitivo. In Italy, the traditional aperitivo is a natural part of life. It’s a beautiful custom that we can adopt no matter where in the world we live. The Italian aperitivo is a pre-dinner cocktail with some small appetizers to tease your appetite for dinner. Dinner is often enjoyed in Italy later in the evening, around 9:00 p.m. or perhaps even later.

The aperitivo is a social ritual that is about enjoying life and creating moments with our loved ones. It’s pure la dolce vita, the sweet life. Life in Italy is lived at a slower pace. Take time to savor the experiences and enjoy time with others. Sharing a drink and a few tidbits is a fun activity for people of any age. You can experience aperitivo with your family, friends, or even new acquaintances. It’s a perfect way to get to know new people, or perhaps a fun first date.

Here are some tips for how to host the perfect Italian aperitivo:


The Perfect Time To Host An Aperitivo

The appropriate time for an aperitivo is early evening, usually between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. before dinner. You don’t want to ruin your appetite for dinner, just wake up the taste buds. This is a social time, so spend your time conversing — and perhaps flirting — while sipping a drink and enjoying a few tasty appetizers.

This is much different from how we normally do things in America. We have an after-work happy hour where the goal is to drink as much as possible while the happy hour prices are in effect. You might eat something, but it’s usually about the drinking and socializing.

An Italian aperitivo is more elegant. Let’s explore how to make this time a beautiful and fun celebration of life.

How To Set Your Table

Your table settings don’t need to be formal or fancy, but should be functional and festive. Perhaps add some flowers. You’ll need small plates and tableware, pretty napkins, and an assortment of drinks glasses. You might want to add some pitchers of water with lemon or cucumber slices.

Arrange cheese on cutting boards. Have some olives in a bowl, crackers and breads on a plate. Arrange them so that people can move around the table and help themselves. The food should all be little things that people can eat easily.

What To Drink

My favorite pre-dinner drink is a glass of Prosecco or red wine. You can have a bowl of diced fruit for your guests to add to their bubbly glass. Light cocktails like Aperol Spritz, or Lillet or Amaretto on ice are always fun. If you want something a little stronger, a Negroni is good palate prepper.

What To Eat

Set out a selection of finger foods and small plates. You can have several types of crostini, like a tomato bruschetta, sardine pâté on toast, or crackers with ricotta and olive tapenade.

A charcuterie plate is a must. Fill a board or tray with a selection of cheeses, salami, crackers, and sliced baguette.

Add a tray of crudités with celery sticks, carrot sticks, cucumber slices, bell pepper strips, with a vinaigrette or dipping sauce.

What To Bring If You Are Invited

If you are invited to an Italian aperitivo, you could bring a bottle of wine or cold Prosecco, a baguette, your favorite cheese, some homemade tapenade, or your specialty dish. This is an informal affair. Just have fun with it.

The most important thing to remember about hosting an Italian aperitivo is to have fun and see that your guests are relaxed and enjoying themselves. This is a wonderful way to end a day and start an evening. Make it a weekly tradition. Perhaps you and your friends or family can take turns hosting. What a beautiful way to experience la dolce vita.