Time and again, the concept of aperitivo Italiano is directly compared with the American deal-fest that we so lovingly refer to as happy hour. However, there are some striking differences between the two that should be discussed before you can go about rebuilding the way you approach drinks and snacks in the early evening this summer in New York City.
Taking place primarily in northern Italy in cities like Milan and Turin, aperitivo normally happens between 7 and 9 pm and acts as a bit of a socializing appetizer before Italians enjoy their decidedly late dinners, which many eat around 9 pm. Though discounted prices aren't at play with the majority of aperitivos taking place in bars and restaurants around northern Italy (those who advertise discounted prices are usually just catering to tourists), they often come with small tapas-like plates to complement customers' beverages.
Now, if we combine American sensibilities of happy hour with the almost romantic notion of aperitivo, a city like New York City offers some great locations to partake in this relatively new Italian tradition, some of which offer a very real aperitivo experience (even if a couple hours earlier than found in Milan). Here are some of our favorites:
Distilled 211 W Broadway
From 4 to 6 pm on weekdays, Distilled's "Public Hour" has specials on craft cocktails, beers, mead and various bar foods. However, if you don’t ever try this spot's incredible wings alongside your favorite beverage, you're only cheating yourself.
Maialino 2 Lexington Ave
Every weeknight from 5 to 7 pm, Maialino's bar hosts a happy hour with a robust menu of pastas, fried artichokes, cotiche fritte, Panini paired alongside some smooth Italian beers like Peroni and Moretti as well as wine by the glass.
Isola Trattoria & Crudo Bar 9 Crosby St
From 5 to 7 on weeknights, Isola Trattoria & Crudo Bar offers up the only real aperitivo experience out of our selected locations as it gives patrons complimentary Italian bites when a paired beverage is ordered. Go with a Negroni (gin, vermouth and bitter liqueur) to make the experience even more authentic.
FISHTAG 222 W 79th St
The most bar-like location in our selections, FISHTAG's has a brief happy hour menu from 5 to 6:30 pm that features bar bites, dollar oysters and half-price wine on weekdays.
A Voce Madison 41 Madison Ave
With a Spuntino menu offered from 2:30 to 7 pm at the restaurant's bar and patio, A Voce Madison serves up tasty snacks like Crocchette di Baccala and Arancini at lower rates to enjoy alongside a favorite beverage.