Italy Embraces Apericena: The Student Supper

Liz Boulter, The Guardian, December 21, 2015

The aperitivo is an old and civilised Italian custom, particularly in the north – a way of rounding off the working day by gathering in a bar for drinks and nibbles before heading home for dinner. Some bar owners offer more than just nuts and olives but, basically, the custom belongs to an old-style Italy, where mamma’s food is best and the family gathers round her table each night.

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But that is changing: mamma may be out at work herself, rather than in the kitchen hand-rolling tortelloni. In the past few years, starting in Milan and Turin, a new twist on the custom caters for students and a younger crowd – who perhaps don’t have the funds for a restaurant dinner, or the time to go home and eat before hitting the clubs. This is the apericena (formed by adding cena – dinner – to aperitivo).

Bars started offering a buffet of homemade hot and cold dishes with evening drinks – substantial enough to constitute a light dinner – at a relatively light price – often €10 for one drink and the buffet. High-end spots, with a great view or setting, say, rarely charge more than €20. Now, to the consternation of traditional restaurateurs, apericena joints have sprung up in many university cities – in Pisa, Florence, Bologna and Padua.


People drinking at the Kitsch Bar in Florence

Kitsch Bar, Florence.

Crostini, bruschette, salads, roasted vegetables, cured meats, baked pastas, risottos and hot and cold meat and fish dishes, plus desserts from tarts to ice-creams, make satisfying and affordable fuel for a night on the tiles.

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In Milan, apericena’s spiritual home, the Exotic restaurant and bar, a short walk from the university, makes a feature of it on Monday nights, with a €10 buffet of salads, pastas, meats and vegetable dishes. At 10pm it is replaced by a dessert buffet: nutella-stuffed pastries, ice-cream and fruit.

In Turin, those in the know make for studenty, cinema-themed Lobelix Cafe on Via Corte d’Appello. It’s decorated with old film posters and strips of film, and €11 buys a drink (aperitif, glass of wine or draught beer) plus unlimited visits to the buffet of pasta, veg, meat and fish dishes – with glass covers to keep everything fresh and appetising. Food can be eaten on the closed-in terrace with views of the eponymous obelisk in Piazza Savoia.


Lobelix Cafe, Turin, Italy

Lobelix Cafe, Turin

Visitors to Italy’s tourist meccas can also enjoy the trend: studenty areas are the best bet. In Florence, Kitsch bar on Viale Gramsci is as ornate as the name suggests, and does a generous buffet of pastas and meat and veg dishes, plus fruit and cake (€10 for first drink, subsequent drinks €4). It’s mostly Tuscan food, but does occasional themed nights, such as Mexican. There is another branch, Kitsch Devx, near the station.

Apericena is harder to find in the south, but Bar Pappagallo (via Anastasio II 45), behind the Vatican gardens in Rome, does an amazing value one for €8 every night until 10pm, with a cocktail, beer or wine, plus risottos, house-made pasta, veg, cold meats and cheese, and tasty nibbles like arancini.

And from this winter, you don’t even have to go to Italy for an apericena: northern wine bar chain Veeno does an unlimited buffet of Italian food (£7 for first drink) every Wednesday in its Manchester, York and Leeds branches.

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This article was written by Liz Boulter from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.