Aperitivo, noun: paying a set price (5-12€), receiving a drink and unlimited food (read: every college kid’s dream).
One of the most amazing ways to gather with friends without the hassle of “who’s ordering what,” aperitivo is one of the best ways to enjoy the Milan lifestyle. Because Milan is a developed and rather industrial big city, getting the best bang for your buck can be tough. Oftentimes, to make it easier for everybody’s wallet, dinner will consist of a meal on the canal (Navigli). Frankly, it’s a bit too tourist-y for my taste, but they offer great food options at fantastic prices!
However, real aperitivo, Milanese-style is much more subdued. A cocktail, some chips and crackers, an olive (or six) is the perfect pre-meal meal. From spending more time with my Italian friends, I’ve discovered how to enjoy life in Milan as a local and not as an exchange student with doing aperitivo correctly as my first step. I have to say, though, it’s hard to avoid a 5€ buffet.
These past two days, I’ve been in Siena with my parents and had some of the best gastronomic experiences of my life. I scanned restaurant reviews on TripAdvisor and Google like a hawk, trying my best to gauge which reviews were trustworthy and which were not. And boy, did I find a great touchpoint for a finding great, local hotspots:
If the 1-star reviews are dominated by American tourists complaining about Italian staff not speaking English and not having a menu for the restaurant, that’s the place you go to.
The first night, we ducked into this small restaurant with 7 tables. Marco, the owner and chef came to tell us all the fresh pastas he had for the night, how he was going to prepare them, and how he could customize them. No menu, no English. Amazing, 5-star meal with 5-star house wine.
For lunch the next day, I discovered a home-kitchen with 3 tables and a counter where you step up to the glass case, point at what you’d like, and sit down with a carafe of house wine.
Dinner was Florentine steak at a mom-and-pop Trattoria hidden under some stone steps. The owner worked with our preferences to create an amazing menu that blew our minds away. I told him that my father was going to have dreams about this restaurant’s steak.
Conclusion? Bad reviews sometimes tell more than good ones, aperitivo is the Milan-thing to do, and I’m clearly eating a ton. And speaking of dinner… I’m off! Arrivaderci!