Aperitivo a Milano

Aperitivo at Metropolis Cafe

Aperitivo at Metropolis Cafe

If you walk into a bar in Milan between the hours of 6:00 and 8:00 pm, you will find large, seemingly overpriced drinks, but they’ll be accompanied by a free buffet. Depending on the bar, this buffet can be anything from potato chips and olives to top of the range charcuterie, pastas, risotto and more. This pre-dinner smorgasbord is a Milanese institution called Aperitivo.

Started in the late 1980s by bar owners looking to attract customers, aperitivo has become a fixture of life in Milan. Each evening, people from all walks of life can be found flocking to the bars for an aperitif and snack. While many guidebooks will warn that it’s gauche to eat more than a small snack at aperitivo, I observed quite a few Italians of all ages and apparent social backgrounds using the aperitivo buffets as a meal replacement. In the second half of my stay, I abandoned my inhibitions as well.

Drinks featuring Campari are popular favorites, which is no surprise given that Campari is produced just down the road from Milan. Some of the most popular cocktails are the spritz and the negroni. A spritz adds Campari to Prosecco while a negroni is gin, vermouth and Campari. Both drinks are typically garnished with a slice or wedge of orange, often blood orange.

Here at a few spots that might be good for a bit of aperitivo.

Loolapaloosa
Google Map: http://goo.gl/maps/RjEZ
Transport: Porta Garibaldi – M2, M5 (opening 2013), S1, S2, S5, S6, S8, S11, S13, National Rail
Located just across the street from the Porta Garibaldi railway station, Loolapaloosa serves large drinks, and an ample, if not top of the range, buffet. Pasta dishes, risotto, finger sandwiches and salami are spread over the bar. At 10 pm, aperitivo ends and the place becomes a dance club. The crowd tends to be rather young. Loolapaloosa is also in Corso Como, where several interesting aperitivo venues can be found, including…

Executive Lounge
Google Map: http://goo.gl/maps/MQjf
Transport: Porta Garibaldi – M2, M5 (opening 2013), S1, S2, S5, S6, S8, S11, S13, National Rail
From the street, the Executive lounge is a bit strange. In a seemingly industrial side street, you meet the door staff, then descend down a long winding ramp, which makes it clear that this venue was once a parking silo (and maybe still is during the day). When you reach the bottom you’ll find a huge space filled with couches and cushions and interspersed with a ridiculously large and varied buffet. The young crowd seems to be a mix of young professionals enjoying a happy hour and date night couples. At 8€ per drink, and such a plentiful and varied buffet, this was one of the better aperitivo values I found. Naming rights seem to change hands frequently. During my visit, the venue was called Fiat Open Lounge.

10 Corso Como
Google Map: http://goo.gl/maps/cg6x
Transport: Porta Garibaldi – M2, M5 (opening 2013), S1, S2, S5, S6, S8, S11, S13, National Rail
The “Chicissimo” spot, according to Zagat, 10 Corso Como is a swanky boutique that also serves aperitivo. Popular amongst the hip and those who watch them, you’ll find small bites and expensive drinks here. The focus is on fashion, not food.

Metropolis Cafe
Google Map: http://goo.gl/maps/EopL
Transport: Repubblica – M3, S1, S2, S3, S6, S13
The Metropolis Cafe at the Piazza della Repubblica draws a more mature crowd. Within the dark, modern decor, sophisticated young professionals mingle with middle aged business people and even a few elderly couples. The 10€ drinks are quite big and the buffet is plentiful and features quality charcuterie and arancini among its offerings.

Navigli
Google Map: http://goo.gl/maps/Raz6
Transport: Porta Genova: M2
Navigli is a neighborhood, not a particular venue. Surrounding Milan’s canals or “navigli”, the Navigli district is chock full of bars, restaurants, jazz clubs and dance clubs. Aperitivo prices range from 7-10€, so this can be a great place for an inexpensive dinner. Given the variety, it would be difficult to find a bar that’s not to your liking.

Prices above are those paid in April 2012.

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