Afterwork like
the locals in Milan

Aperitivo is an Italy-wide evening ritual, and Milan is perhaps the place to enjoy a sundowner to build an appetite for dinner.

 

Locals enjoy aperitivo cocktails and snacks in Milan’s Isola district.

Text and photos by Andrew Taylor.

There’s a social buzz in the air as everyone sips their bright orange beverages in the bars, restaurants and terraces of Milan. The evening positively revolves around aperitivo, which locals affectionately call rubitt, or “precious little things”.

"Aperitivo is the quintessential sunset experience, the best way to enjoy food, wine and cocktails after work", explains Milan-based food writer Carlo Spinelli.

The classic aperitivo drink is dry or bitter. Carlo recommends a spritz, americano, negroni or a martini, while you can never go wrong with a prosecco. The bright orange comes from the iconic Campari and Aperol liqueurs. Sanbitter and Crodino are good non-alcoholic options.

Food is usually included in the price. This ranges from simple bar snacks of olives, nuts and crisps to morsels of cheese and cold meats and even small plates of pizza and crostini (aperitivo rinforzato). Occasionally you’ll come across a table trembling under a lavish smorgasbord (apericena). Buffets are a modern addition developed to please hungry students and first jobbers, but purists argue that aperitivo shouldn’t satisfy your appetite – that’s what dinner is for.

“Aperitivo is best enjoyed as a simple experience,” says Filippo Sisti, cocktail barman at Carlo e Camilla in Segheria. “All you need is a good cocktail and olives, bread and salami. Save the risotto for dinner.”

The smiling people with the orange drinks are obviously onto something. A tasty drink, a snack and a chat with an old or new friend is a great evening tonic.

Richard Annunzio serves a virgin Bloody Mary at 10 Corso Como.

5 x great aperitivo in Milan

10 Corso Como

Hosting a gallery, design store, café, bar and restaurant, there’s plenty to see and do here. The floral outside-inside garden café is a soothing place to enjoy your aperitivo, which includes crisps and nuts. Work up a thirst with an amble around the gallery, which focuses on photography, architecture and occasionally fashion. Also check out the fashion store and excellent art bookshop. Aperitivo €8–10, prosecco €10, cocktails €10+.
Corso Como 10

Ripa di Porta Ticinese street is lined with busy cafes and restaurants.

Carlo e Camilla in Segheria

This hip, urbane bar and restaurant uniquely housed in a refurbished sawmill boasts a rugged-chic courtyard seating area. The theatre of mixology acted out by the skilled bartenders is a sight to behold. Aperitivo cocktails are modern and retro, with bartenders mixing pretty lines of sage juleps, Moscow mules and dark ‘n’ stormys. Aperitivo includes light snacks of bruschetta and vegetable sticks. Dress up a little. Cocktails and wines from €9.
Via G.Meda 24

Frida

There’s an easy-going bohemian vibe to this popular, buzzing bar in laid-back Isola, said to be a small town inside a city. Classic aperitivo drinks are available, plus the regular range of cocktails and a good range of wines. A well-stocked buffet of crostini, salads and potato snacks is offered. Wines €4–5 euros, cocktails €6.5.
Via Pollaiuolo 3

Sage julep and aperitivo snacks at Carlo e Camilla in Segheria.

The café-bar of 10 Corso Como also hosts a gallery and a design store.

Nottingham Forest

This small, kooky bar specialises in molecular and explosive cocktail mixology, lovingly presented in their fantastical book of cocktails. The decorative artefacts and wood panelling create a peculiar voodoo atmosphere. The bar is renowned among locals and is often listed among of the world’s best cocktails bars, so there’s often a queue. Simple bar snacks are included. Cocktails from €12.
Viale Piave 1

Ratanà

‘Aperitivo con rubitt’ served in this charming city villa restaurant from 6.30 pm is all about enjoying smart little dishes (€1–4) to accompany your drink, and later being seated and enjoying a full evening meal. Several little dishes are available, including gazpacho verde, carpaccio and mondeghili meatballs. Drinks include spritz, beer and a wide selection of wines. Aperitivo drinks €5–10
Via de Castilla 28

The hip bar and restaurant of Carlo e Camilla in Segheria is housed in a refurbished sawmill.


This article was first published in the May 2015 issue of Finnair's monthly in-flight magazine Blue Wings.