The waiter asked us where we were from.
“No,” we shook our heads.
“Germany,” said with certainty. (We’ve been mistaken for Germans a lot in the last week or so).
“No,” we shook our heads grinning.
I took pity on him. “Nuova Zelanda.”
“Really?” He was so excited. We were the first tourists he had met from New Zealand.
We ordered two beers, in his café by the sea on a hot afternoon at the end of the Italian summer. Work and school was scheduled to restart on Monday.
He brought our beers, and the customary snacks to go with them. We got talking. He had heard that in Australia and New Zealand, we don’t have “aperitivi” like this.
“No,” we said, sadly. “We’re lucky if we get a bowl of peanuts.”
“Not even olives?” he asked, horrified.
We shook our heads.
“If we want olives, or salami or mortadella, or anything hot, we have to order and pay for them.”
His expressive eyes widened, first in disgust, then in pity. Then, after some thought, they sparkled. “So if I opened a bar there, and offered aperitivi like this, it would be something different?”
We nodded, thinking how wonderful it would be, but doubting our cost structures would permit.
It has been one of the hidden highlights of our trip, and a reason perhaps there have been so many “beer /prosecco shots” on Facebook. A drink is not just a drink in Italy. An aperitivo is a drink, with complimentary snacks to accompany it. And we have had some wonderful food. Rarely have we been given just potato chips (crisps) – though that seems to be the minimum acceptable, and in fact seems compulsory no matter what else we are given. Usually there is a selection of two or three other hors d’oeuvres:
- Salumi plates (mixed meats/charcuterie – salami, prosciutto, sausage), cheese, and bite-sized pastries flavoured with pizza sauce or cheese with delicious Sardinian wines at my favourite enoteca in Santa Margherita. All for 6 euros a glass of wine.
- A little cracked wheat salad in tiny bowls with tiny spoons, olives, and wafer-thin crust pizzas at our afore-mentioned waiter’s café in Pesaro. The two large beers were 4.50 euros each.
- Raw carrots with mustard (and chips) and bite-sized pastries with prosecco in Vittorio Veneto. Best bargain, a glass of Prosecco (six different ones to choose from) for 2.50 euros.
- Pistachios and freshly made bruschetta (at our hotel in the hills of Molise) with a beer. 2.50 euros each.
It’s always a delight, because – even after two months – I never expect it. And the prices? Ridiculous. It would never work in NZ.