Americans are generally quite familiar with the idea of Happy Hour. It’s usually a great thing – you get huge portions of good food for pennies on the dollar, as long as you buy a drink. Which, after many an American workday, is a much needed thing anyway. Happy Hour is a fantastic way to stretch your dining dollar, but until recently it’s been completely unknown in Italy.
Nowadays you can find the odd bar, cafe or restaurant in Italy which has a Happy Hour menu, though they’re still comparatively rare. Elizabeth writes about one place in Rome that’s doing Happy Hour here, and notes that they’re not just doing what we might call “bar food,” but honest-to-goodness real food. She says that after 6:30 you can pay €10 and get a drink with a plate of food. It’s buffet style, and you can choose from pasta, rice salads, sandwiches, shrimp, etc. Elizabeth adds that there’s an important cultural difference between Italy and the United States which is honored in this Happy Hour menu – it’s not called “supper” for a reason:
It’s not called “supper”, although that is what it is for those off to a concert, but an “aperativo”, [sic] thereby circumventing the “non si fa” rule about never putting all of your food on one plate, which is ok for an aperativo [sic] but not for a meal — marketing genius.
You might remember my post about how the concept of “potluck” is a foreign one in Italy, and it’s partly for this reason – Italians don’t pile all their courses on one plate. As Elizabeth says, “non si fa” – meaning one just doesn’t do that. So the Happy Hour folks have gotten around this aversion to mixing different foods by calling it an “aperitivo” instead of a meal. She’s right, that’s just genius.
At any rate, if you’re going to Rome and you’re looking for an inexpensive alternative to dinner out, try the Happy Hour spot Elizabeth mentions. Elsewhere in Italy, Happy Hour is certainly becoming more widely known, but don’t be surprised if the guy at the front desk of your hotel looks at you blankly when you ask him where the nearest Happy Hour is.
Photo by: Ten Days in Rome – November 2014