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.


3 Responses

  1. Made the mistake of going to an aperitivo in Torino with a heavily pregnant wife. Bar charged the same for a glass of beer or wine as it did for a can of pop (€8).

    Lots of very thin, very beautiful women that looked as though it was their one meal of the day. Can’t see it working here – plenty of eating then off elsewhere to drink at a cheaper rate.

    Good heads up on coffee bar. Will no doubt take me an age to get there for a lunchtime ristretto but will give it a whirl.

  2. I love the Coffee at La Bottega Milanese. Alex blends the sort of coffee I judge all others’ by. With his passion and great customer service by him and his staff, you feel as though you are entering a little part of Italy, that you don’t want to leave. Customers soon become friends. I would suggest that all the local office workers go there for a lunch break/Aperitivo, where they will be revived and ready for the rest of the day. If we give it a try then there is no reason why Aperitivo won’t catch on. Nothing goes better together than Good Coffee, Good Food and Good Conversation.

  3. Agreed, I really hope the people of Leeds take to the idea. Fingers crossed!

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