Aperitivo, a trend originating in Milan and now popular throughout the peninsula, is Italy’s version of happy hour. Taking place before dinner, it is intended to whet your appetite, though sometimes it can preclude the next meal in itself. The typical aperitivo formula includes a beverage (alcoholic or non) along with some nibbles included in the price of your drink, but some bars offer such a wide buffet of tantalizing foods that you could pass up dinner entirely. Take a note of these bars that craft delicious drinks, tasty foods and make for a perfect evening of socializing in good company.
Freni e Frizioni
Freni e Frizioni is among the most famous aperitivo joints in Rome. This old car repair shop (aptly named ‘Brakes and Clutches’) crafts delicious cocktails and has a plentiful buffet of foods ranging from pastas and grains to fruits and veggies. It’s great for vegetarians but meat eaters are sure to leave well-fed. Located in the buzzing Trastevere neighborhood, it has a mixed crowd of expats, tourists and locals and the large terrace provides an inviting place to come hang out late into the night.
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The king of all aperitivos in Rome most certainly is Momart which serves up a veritable apericena, or aperitivo-dinner. This contemporary restaurant has an overflowing buffet with all types of food imaginable, including pasta salads, mini sandwiches, vegetable pies, omelettes, rotating pizzas and even desserts. It’s great value and because it’s located off the beaten path near Piazza Bologna, it provides an opportunity to mingle with a local crowd in a cool setting.
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Bakery, Restaurant, Italian, $$$
With multiple locations around the city, Il Gianfornaio is a great bet for a really satisfying aperitivo. This bakery serves amazing breads, pizzas of all flavors and savory tarts during its unlimited buffet in the evenings, so its a perfect choice for the carb-fiend in you. The bakery is open all day and is a nice option for a casual breakfast, lunch or a quick snack in between as well.
Panella is another fabulous bakery with indulgent breads and pizzas of all types, plus seafood nibbles, savory mousses, croquettes and quiches. It’s a higher-end spot (and priced accordingly) but worth a stop for its quality ingredients and pleasant atmosphere. Located by Piazza Vittorio, Panella is a bit of an anomaly in the neighborhood and provides a refined oasis with plenty of outdoor seating beneath an extended canopy.
This trendy spot is a short stroll from the Vatican and serves up a generous aperitivo: straight to you, in bite-sized portions. With its wide range of sparkling drinks, bottled beers and Italian classics, you’re sure to find something you like on the drinks menu; then take a seat while waiters bring you dozens of delicious treats to accompany your beverage. In the evenings, La Zanzara fills up with young professionals who flock here for a post-work Spritz and savory mignons, giving you a feel of Rome’s chic Prati neighborhood.
This cool bar lies in the industrial Ostiense neighborhood in the south of Rome and has one of the best aperitivos in the city if you make it there early. You won’t want to miss the array of dishes, ranging from pastas and succulently-prepared vegetables to rices and grains of all types. Doppio Zeroo also has some great sweets including Nutella pizza. The cocktails are creative and there’s an ample wine list including lots of bubbly (French and Italian) to please your tastebuds.