The Italian Kitchen: Aperitivo & The World’s Best Food

The Italian Kitchen: Aperitivo & The World’s Best Food

6 minute read

Most popular Italian foods:


*Spaghetti Carbonara


*Prosciutto e melone


What's the #1 food in the world?

Tacos! Nope.

Sandwiches! Nope again (but you can find out what the world's best sandwiches are here).

Hamburgers! We argue that's a type of sandwich.

Smoothie bowls! Just kidding. Keep in mind we're on a serious quest to answer this question, and we think the smoothie bowl, while inventive, is just a passing trend. If such an item ever shows up on a list of the world's best foods, we'll ask to not be notified.

Ready for it?

Pizza! As if we even had to ask! 

Pizza meets everyone's food fantasy, fetish, and frequency. Why? Because it's adaptable to almost every palate. If you don't eat meat, various styles of vegetarian pizza are available. If you don't eat gluten, most pizza makers are responsively crafting delicious wheat-free dough--sweet potato pizza crust anyone?

Is Pizza Italian?

That's not a trick question. Pizza originates in Naples, Italy, a compact, vibrant, edgy little city in Italy's southern region. While there is some conjecture, it seems the word pizza is the outcome of a blend of the Greek word for pie (pitta) and the Langobardic word for bite (bizzo). Ultimately, pizza is indeed Italian, though the pizza we enjoy in North America is not always traditional Italian pizza. So what is it?

Allow me to share another travel story of my quick pass through Naples to discover the world's best pizza. I figured that if pizza was the #1 food in the world, and it was birthed in Italy, then Italy would hold the best pizza in the world, and further that it would reside in Naples where pizza originated. So I searched for the number one pizza place in Naples, and my query returned the name L'antica Pizzeria da Michele Forcella. I had a mission.

I was visiting Rome at the time with a friend, so we rented a car to road-trip our way down Italy's west coast, passing through Naples and the Amalfi Coast, to eventually arrive in Sicily. Naples was to be our first stop, and depending on how good the pizza was, we might stay there for a few days.

If you've ever had the delight and terror of driving in Italy, you may have discovered that speed is defined somewhat differently than it is in North America. Thankfully, I was the passenger and map holder, while my heavy-footed friend held the wheel and navigated our course. We were not without stress. Once we entered Naples, velocity peaked and we drove the same loop not once, not twice, but 10 times trying to make the teensy weensy massively obscured turn into the street that housed the world's best pizza. Yelling back and forth at each other, you missed the turn!--you told me too late! We developed an intimate understanding that only direct experience gives of Naples' collective personality: a rough, feverish pitch of healthy insanity. 

Finally we found our pizza joint and ordered up two traditional margherita pies, plus wine to soften our nerves. We didn't talk. We just ate, and ate, and ate, folding crust, pulling cheese, oozing luscious tomato sauce. I might have groaned in pleasure once or twice. It was that good. The crust wasn't crusty but delightfully chewy. The cheese was perfectly blobbed and melted. The sauce was like something you've only dreamed about. We stayed in Naples for three days for no other reason than to feed ourselves.

I could go on and on about pizza. Indeed, there are numerous books written about the world's #1 food. But while it may be the best dish in Italy, it's certainly not the only one. While the limits of this article prevent me from sharing all the details of my favorite Italian foods, I can offer a bullet point list of notable mentions. They're a good starting point for your next visit to an Italian restaurant:

  • Gnocchi

  • Spaghetti Carbonara

  • Bruschetta

  • Prosciutto e melone

  • Cannelloni

  • Focaccia 

  • Arancini

  • Tiramisu

  • Coffee made in a moka pot!

That summer, I spent eight delicious weeks in Italy, travelling all over the country, sampling food and wine from nearly every region. I got hooked on prosciutto e melone in Rome, risotto in Milan, Nero d'Avola and cannelloni in Sicily, and pistachio gelato, calzone, Valpolicella, and--best of all--aperitivo in Florence. Bear in mind these specific foods don't necessarily originate in those regions, it's just what I randomly decided to sample. It's fair to say I felt as heavy as a house by the time my trip met its sorry end.

Italy's Aperitivo

Italian Food Aperitivo

Similar to Spanish tapas (but better in my opinion) is Italy's aperitivo. Literally, aperitivo is a pre-meal drink. But if you're familiar with the Italian way in regards to food, then you understand that no drink is complete without some assortment of food present. Like in Thailand where food is culture, Italians know how to feed themselves well.

Staying in the most bewitching city of Siena, Tuscany, home of the country's most familiar piazza, I met up with a local friend one evening for aperitivo. We met close to Piazza del Campo at a small bar on a narrow cobblestone street. People spilled out into the street in a cacophony of chatter and laughter, holding stemmed glasses filled with the blood of the earth. 

My friend pulled me inside the cozy, romantically-lit place, and there on the bar laid a handsome smattering of appetizers. For just 3 Euros, I received a glass of house red and unlimited access to the food bar. There must have been 20 different types of nibbles there, big and small, and each one was delicious. As I enjoyed my fill I thought, this is pre-meal? Who needs dinner?! As I stood on that cobblestone street, sampling Italy's version of street food (quite unlike India's street food I must add!), I fell in love with Italy right then and there.

For The Love Of Bruschetta...

Siena was also where I learned to make proper Italian bruschetta, pronounced brroo-SKET-ta rather than with a soft shhh sound in the middle as most North American's are prone to say. Thin slices of baguette are rubbed with fresh garlic cloves and lightly toasted. Plump roma tomatoes are chopped and simmered until slightly tender, and piled onto the toasts. Olive oil is drizzled over top, and a good quality salt dusts the whole enterprise. Each one is garnished with a fresh basil leaf. As you'd expect, the quality of the tomatoes and olive oil is a major factor in the outcome. It's delicate but easy enough to try at home and we encourage you to!

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