One of my favourite things about my last holiday in Italy (Couchsurfing around Bologna, Padua, Venice and Florence, absolute bliss with my girlfriend, eating amazing food and meeting some lovely hosts) was discovering, via Geovanni, our great host in Bologna, about the aperitivo culture in Northern Italy.
Post work, the Italian’s don’t head down the pub for a pint (not that I’m disparaging that. Hell, read the rest of blog), they head out to the bars for a Spritz (Campari and soda, really refreshingly bitter) and then getting loads of free food. Sometimes it’s just endless bowls of crisps, sometimes it’s bruschetta (that’s bread with tomatoes and stuff), sometimes it’s bread and oil, sometimes it’s a massive buffet. The premise is simple, you pay a fixed (normally relatively high) price for your drink between, say 5 and 7pm, and included in the price is a never ending supply of grub. It’s great. The food means you don’t get too pissed, and it’s so unbelievably sociable.
The other thing I thought was great about Italy (again, something you learn from Couchsurfing and being shown the city by a local) is that it is the LAW that if you order an espresso at the bar (ie not needing table service) they can’t charge you more than €1. That makes it just about the cheapest drink you can get. And shows how much the Italians love their coffee.
(one more thing I like, but isn’t relevant here, is that almost every train station has a cafe that does great coffee, sarnies and pastries, beats what we have here)
Anyway, I always miss this in Leeds. Quality coffee for nowt (honestly, try Starbucks coffee after trying Italian coffee, it tastes bland) and this great culture of aperitivo.
But all is not lost. One enthusiastic business owner, Alex, from Milan, wants to bring that Italian culture to Leeds and is doing his based with his little espresso bar, La Bottega Milanese on The Calls. He’s been pedalling quality coffee (at a mere £1 for an espresso) for six months, and now he’s launched an aperitivo menu of his own, using a non-alcoholic campari equivalent and loads of crisps, nuts, tomatoes, mozarella and bruschetta.
What a great idea. I’ll be getting down to support it.