Italy is known for its three-course lunches and dinners, but in most cities and towns, there’ll be a more casual type of place where you can get take out, eat at a little table, or mangiare in piedi (eat standing up).
Pizza al taglio (pizza by the slice) is very popular all over Italy, especially in Rome. As Anna explains, prices vary according to size and what’s on the pizza.
Tu scegli il pezzo di pizza, viene pesato, a seconda del tipo di pizza, ha un prezzo diverso al chilo,
You choose the piece of pizza, it's weighed, depending on the kind of pizza, it has a varying price per kilo,
e paghi a seconda della grandezza e del peso di pizza che hai scelto.
and you pay depending on the size and the weight of the pizza you've chosen.
Captions 79-81, Anna e Marika - Pizza al taglio romanaPlay Caption
You can certainly find pizza al taglio in Tuscany, but in addition, and baked in the same oven, you’ll often see la cecina, made from farina di ceci (chickpea flour). Learn more here. Liguria and Tuscany, as well as Puglia have focaccia, in some areas called schiacciata, which is made with flour, water, oil and yeast, like pizza, and often takes the place of bread. You’ll find it in bakeries, bars, and pizzerie. As a quick snack, Romagna has the piadina, a flat bread made with lard rather than olive oil, which gets filled with cured meats or cheese. Learn more here.
A way for people to get together socially, without having to spend lots of money on dinner, is to have drinks before they go home for dinner: fare or prendere l’aperitivo (to have an aperitif). As we’ll see, aperitivo has different sfumature (shades of meaning).
Prima di andare a cena, quindi verso le sei o le sette, gli italiani fanno un aperitivo.
Before going to have dinner, so, around six or seven o'clock, Italians have cocktails.
Captions 1-2, Corso di italiano con Daniela - L'aperitivoPlay Caption
Adriano, in describing his day, includes an aperitivo, at least on the weekend.
Mi rilasso e mi sfogo con gli amici dopo una lunga giornata di lavoro.
I relax and I let off steam with my friends after a long day of work.
Mi concedo qualche aperitivo e poi anche qualche cocktail alcolico.
I allow myself some aperitifs and then also some cocktails.
Captions 48-51, Adriano - GiornataPlay Caption
It’s pretty clear that Adriano considers aperitivo in its broader sense, and he uses qualche aperitivo here to mean a few appetizers. For an explanation of how to use qualche, see this previous lesson. For the drink itself, Adriano uses "cocktail.” As with most English words integrated into the Italian language, "cocktail" will remain in the singular no matter how many he has.
While the aperitivo, usually served with patatine (potato chips) or olive (olives), is an established ritual in most parts of Italy, one of the latest trends is the apericena. If you combine aperitivo (drinks) with cena (dinner), you get apericena. What is it? It’s drinks and appetizers, both savory and sweet, that are varied and abundant enough to replace dinner, served buffet style. The apericena exists both in bars about town, offering an alternative to a costly tab in a restaurant, and in homes, making for a relatively low-budget, flexible, and fashionable alternative to a sit-down dinner. It encourages mingling, conversation, and allows for guests to just stop by. These light buffet dinners are becoming more and more popular all over Italy.
All over the world there's a tendency to take foreign words and knowingly or unknowingly give them a meaning different from the original. So, be aware that in bars, the apericena or the aperitivo (depending on how much there is to eat) is sometimes called a “happy hour,” which in Italy is not about discounts on drinks as in the United States, but rather having drinks accompanied by a small buffet of stuzzichini (appetizers) for a fixed, though variable, price. More about the Italian happy hour here. The word for “toothpick” in Italian is stuzzicadenti. Little bite-size appetizers are often served with toothpicks, thus the term stuzzichini. If you travel to Venice, you'll want to check out the Venetian version of stuzzichini: cicchetti.
Learn more here. This is an important tip, given that it’s quite a challenge finding good food at reasonable prices in Venezia.