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Traditional Italian Aperitivo – How to make it Vegan?

Posted on November 01 2018

Author: Michele, Founder of STIFINEFOOD 

Facciamo un Aperitivo? ….. Living in Florida I began to miss one of the most important parts of Italian lifestyle, the Aperitivo. What is it exactly? It is a pre-dinner fest meant to open your appetite for dinner time. It involves a pairing of beverages with an assortment of small plates of food. For me and for most Italians Aperitivo is a food-drink experience that brings us together to enjoy life a little more!

Although Aperitivo may vary depending on the region in Italy that you are at (north, central, and south of Italy have their own special culinary traditions), veggies and flatbreads are always the stars of Aperitivo. In fact, one of the reasons I enjoy it so much is because it teaches you to indulge on veggies too!

Now, traditional Aperitivo can have some non-vegan friendly dishes, but nothing that we cannot make vegan too!

When and where?

During weekdays from 6pm – 9pm Italians meet up for Aperitivo, mostly with friends or coworkers, before heading home for dinner. Usually taken in a bar as in Italy restaurant do not open their kitchen until 7:30/8:30pm. 

Nowadays, it can turn into an Apericena (cena = dinner), involving an open buffet that has a variety of small main dishes, like pasta.  Enough to let you forego dinner and enjoy a night out of drinks without missing dinner.

 On the weekends, there is Aperitivo at 11am! Perfect before Lunch Time.

The Drinks

When it comes to the drinks, wine, bitters or wine-based cocktails are the go-to choices. Personally, I like to go just for wine, Red of the dry variety is my favorite to accompany the food feast.

Quite famous in Italy through all Aperitivo hours is the Spritz: a mix of a liqueur infused by herbs, Prosecco, ice, and a bit of soda water.

Another typical drink of choice is Vermouth, a fortified aromatized wine, taken in its dry version with an olive.

If you go for wine, traditionally sparkling wines such as Prosecco are an Aperitivo staple.

Making sure the drinks are vegan friendly. I choose Aperol for Spritz, according to the company it is Vegan Friendly.  For Prosecco, I really like the DOCG ASOLO PROSECCO “FRIZZANTE” from the Veneto Region, which is vegan certified. When it comes to Vermouth, in Italy the go to brand is the famed Campari, however they use gelatin in the clarification process, so it IS NOT VEGAN FRIENDLY. My go to instead is CONTRATTO VERMOUTH ROSSO (RED).

About the food

Now onto the food. In the south, especially in Apulia, there is no Aperitivo without Taralli and assorted olives.

The Taralli are soft breadstick texture crackers that can come with added spices. Made with flour, white wine, and olive oil, Taralli are often vegan friendly (but be sure to ask about the wine used). Olives ranging from black to green are a must alongside grilled eggplants and peppers. And to refresh the taste buds an assortment of raw veggies are always part of Aperitivo food.

When it comes to flatbreads, small bites of tomato focaccia is often part of the appetizer assortment. If making Aperitivo at home, focaccia is easy to make: flour, vegan friendly active yeast, olive oil for the dough and add our  semi dry cherry tomatoes and place it in the oven!

Small size bruschettas are also a must. I toast my favorite bread and to have an an assortment of flavors so do a mix bruschettas: Adding to some zucchini pate, others black olive spread, and for the traditional taste I go for the mix for bruschetta with fresh and sundried tomatoes.

When it comes to small portions of local dishes within the Aperitivo. I prefer rice over pasta, so I like to make  a cold black rice salad: Black “VENERE” rice sautéed in garlic (served cold), fresh cherry tomatoes, wild rocket salad, and a drizzle of great extra virgin olive oil.

And to veganize Aperitivo fully, when it comes to cold cuts I  go for the vegan legume substitutes. My favorite substitutes are lupin based.

In general, Italian Traditional Aperitivo is about enjoying a relax time with friends while enjoying a drink with some great Italian savory snacks. In many places in the USA they have adopted the Italian Style Aperitivo, but it can be just as easily recreated in your home and made vegan!

For me Veganized Aperitivo is the perfect way to transition from the work day to enjoy time with friends and family.

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