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‘Aperitivo Italiano’: Happy hour, the Italian way

Josa Lukman

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, December 6, 2019  /  02:59 pm
‘Aperitivo Italiano’: Happy hour, the Italian way

Happy hour: The Istituto Italiano di Cultura along with the Embassy of Italy in Jakarta introduced the Italian way of eating during the the fourth edition of Italian Cuisine Week in the World. (Shutterstock/-)

Italy is renowned for its wondrous cuisine, but what happens when evening rolls around? The answer is dinner, of course.

Yet, there is a period before dinner when people come together for a drink or two and have a chat over light appetizers before moving on to something heavier.

Some people call it happy hour, but the Italians would prefer aperitivo.

Indonesians generally don’t have a tradition of happy hour due to the Muslim-majority nation’s reluctance to indulge in alcoholic beverages and tendency to snack anytime, anywhere.

Keen on introducing the Italian way of eating to Indonesia, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura along with the Embassy of Italy have launched the fourth edition of Italian Cuisine Week in the World.

The event, which ran from Nov. 18 to 27, covered all aspects of culinary world, from discussions on marketing regional cuisine to cooking classes and movie screenings.

The penultimate event before the week closed with a concert at M Bloc Space was Aperitivo Italiano. As its name suggests, it was a taste of Italian happy hour.

Food for thought: Italian food and beverage expert Martino Del Buono explains the characteristics of Italian wine. Food for thought: Italian food and beverage expert Martino Del Buono explains the characteristics of Italian wine. (Courtesy of Italian Cultural Institute/-)

Straight from the get go, guests were served prosecco, a sparkling wine unique to the northeastern part of Italy, named after the village of Prosecco.

Served chilled, the Fantinel Prosecco Extra Dry’s light and fruity flavors contrasted with the sharpness of formaggio picante (spicy aged cheese served with pickles).

Next up were the white wines. Their dryness and hint of sweetness contrasted with the tang of tomatoes on bruschetta.

Valentino’s 2014 Piemonte Cortese was paired with the savory tomato and goat cheese from the bruschetta, while the 2017 Da Vinci Pinot Grigio worked well with ricotta cheese and sun-dried tomato.

While the white wines were served chilled, red wines were served at room temperature to complement their full-bodied nature.

Guests enjoyed the fragrant intensity of Donnafugata’s 2011 Tancredi Sicilia, which had a certain sweetness to its notes. Though red wines like it are typically best suited with steaks, a pairing with cold cuts of ham and chicken were appropriate in the aperitivo setting before the main course.

Borgogno’s 2015 Langhe Nebbiolo, with its lighter yet still full-bodied taste, was paired with Penne alla Puttanesca, penne sautéed with tomato sauce, olives, anchovies and pine nuts.

As the night went on, Aperitivo Italiano closed with something light and sweet, pairing Batasiolo’s 2014 Moscato Spumante with tiramisu as the dessert to wrap things up. Coffee usually follows if one wants to continue the conversation, though most would go on to heavier meals.

A taste of authenticity: Chef Matteo Meacci of Ristorante Ambiente prepared dishes for Aperitivo Italiano in Jakarta. A taste of authenticity: Chef Matteo Meacci of Ristorante Ambiente prepared dishes for Aperitivo Italiano in Jakarta. (Courtesy of Italian Cultural Institute/-)

Aperitivo Italiano’s food was prepared by chef Matteo Meacci of Ambiente Ristorante, the oldest Italian restaurant in Jakarta. First opened in 1989 at Hotel Aryaduta Jakarta, the restaurant underwent extensive renovations and reopened its doors in late 2017, helmed by chef Meacci.

A native of the Tuscany region, Meacci brought his skills to Jakarta in 2011, having worked with Ocha & Bella and de Luca before taking his position as executive chef of Ambiente.

Meacci described aperitivo as more a lifestyle than a meal, as it was about mingling and getting together with others.

“After a hard working day in Italy, we meet at the bar and we drink. We start with a little bit of prosecco, spritz, a glass of wine or a bottle of beer. And then we snack, but the snack is just complementary,” Meacci said, adding that, for aperitivo in Italy, the food was always complementary.

Befitting its complementary status, food for aperitivo usually comprises tapas-style dishes that go together with the drinks of choice.

Aperitivo is usually at around 6 p.m., after working hours. It’s a light snack that turns on your appetite, and after that you go to dinner so it has to be light.”

Meacci said among the most common foods eaten at aperitivo were cheese and cold cuts, which he said were cheap. However, that’s not the case in Jakarta, where such food often has to be imported.

“But in Italy, it is mostly cheese – cold cuts, small bites like bruschetta, focaccia, small pizza or pasta salad,” he explained.

Although the most common Italian food in Indonesia is either pizza or pasta, most relatively affordable Italian dishes come from fast food-style restaurants or chains that are more American in nature.

By contrast, Meacci said authentic Italian cuisine was known for its simplicity and freshness of ingredients.

“The key is in the ingredients, so you have to treat it in a way that does not alter it too much or change its nature. You just need to enhance the flavor of the natural ingredients.” (ste)

 

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