This is a short post I’ve been meaning to write since I started this blog. For those on a budget, and even for those who are not, it’s worth knowing about the Italian phenomenon of apericena.
The name, a neologism, is a mash-up of aperitivo and cena, or dinner. I believe it's intended to signal pre-dinner, but could also be interpreted by some of us as drink and dinner combined (literally).*
You used to stumble into apericena just by virtue of ordering a drink at around sundown. You'd park your tired carcass somewhere and order a glass of wine, only to find to your happy surprise that that modest order came with a couple of plates of tasty nibbles. This was especially true in smaller cities and towns, where the quality of food you got was quite good, to boot.
These days, some places are charging a higher price for that sundown drink that's your ticket to apericena. Nonetheless, it’s still a pretty good deal to pay, say, 10 euro for a cocktail or glass of Montepulciano and get a faceful of food plus a front-row seat for watching Italy parade by.
Of course, some offerings are better than others. In popular central spots of bigger cities like Piazza della Signoria in Florence or Piazza Navona in Rome, you'll get olives, chips, nuts, bread, maybe some salumi and cheese. In lesser-known locales, you'll likely get something more substantial that might include little pizzas and sandwiches, charcuterie, cheeses, vegetables and dip, pastries.
*A word to the wise: Though the apericena in not really intended to serve as dinner, it could occasionally do so for the tourist-on-a-dime who's not a huge eater. That said, I’ve recently read that, at some spots, apericena can take the form of a buffet. In that case, you’d be wise to rein in any tendency toward gluttony. Proprietors — and even fellow patrons — don’t expect to see folks trotting to the trough over and over again. Non si fa. It just isn't done.