In Italian culture, food isn’t just a way of sustaining yourself. It’s about having an experience — and sharing that experience with friends and loved ones. Italians love all-encompassing meals; their structure consists of many different courses with small portions, all consisting of their own unique flavors, utilizing drinks and other methods to enhance flavors and enrich the dining experience as a whole.
One such type of drink is referred to as “aperitivo” (plural: aperitivi) — a category of beverage that’s consumed before the meal begins. The word derives from the Latin verb “aperire”, which means “to open”. This is exactly what aperitivi do to begin the flavorful journey of an Italian meal — they stimulate the appetite.
Prosecco is an Italian sparkling white wine that originated in the small town of Prosecco, Italy, from where the grape originates. It’s served chilled and is best consumed while young — typically within 3 years of it being bottled — since it grows stale. It carries a low alcohol content and is perfect for whetting the appetite. It can also be used as a champagne replacement and is the main ingredient in spritzes and Bellini cocktails.
Categorized as a bitters, Campari is an Italian alcoholic liqueur that is made from infusing herbs and fruit with water. It has a deep red coloration and is commonly served as a cocktail: Campari and soda water, Campari with citrus juice, or as a spritz (Campari + prosecco).
Aperol is similar to Campari but it is made out of bitter orange, rhubarb, gentian, cinchona and other spices. Its origins lie in Padua, a city in northern Italy just west of Venice. Aperol has half the alcohol content of Campari, is less bitter, and is commonly served as a cocktail called Aperol Spritz.
Vermouth is a category of aromatic wine that originally comes from Turin, Italy. It was originally used as medicine during the 18th century, but quickly made its way into popular cocktails and has been a key aperitivo ever since. It’s main flavors come from botanicals — roots, spices, barks, flowers, seeds, and herbs. Today there are various types of vermouth, ranging in flavors and dryness. It’s typically a main ingredient in cocktails such as the martini, manhattan, negroni and Americano.
All of these drinks are sure to wet your whistle to help whet your appetite. The next time you’re looking to have the fully enriched Italian dining experience, aperitivi and all, reserve a table at La Buona Vita. Come experience authentic Italian cuisine in downtown La Grange.