Happy Hour – Although This One Was Unhappy!

What a wonderful tradition happy hour is!  A time when friends can gather and join in a few post-work drinks and perhaps a little nibble to eat.  We’ve always known happy hour to be a 5:00pm – 7:00pm (ish) time to partake in a few cocktails at a discounted price.

Caffè Mazzini – Our favorite Happy Hour in Como

We were pleased to find that the tradition of “happy hour” also exists in Italy and it’s even called the same thing (just imagine saying it with a funny little accent… drop the sound the “h” makes).  However, it’s a bit different here.

Instead of discounted drinks and food, you usually pay the same price for the drinks (which always tends to be low anyways… between $4 – $6) but get a big bonus.  ALL YOU CAN EAT heavy hors d’oeuvres – Italian style!!!  Imagine a bar full of pasta, pizza and other wonderful treats.  If you’re not to embarrassed to fill a plate – you can easily have enough for dinner.

Since eating and drinking are two of my favorite things to do thus far on this trip, we have explored a few of the best happy hours the city has to offer (literally every place that serves drinks or coffee puts some sort of food out after 5:00pm).

However, on this particular day (after exploring the markets of Como), we encountered our first bad happy hour experience.  We came across Specialita` Apretivi – a place where the food looked better than any we had seen before.  The combination of a desire for a good glass of wine, a hungry baby and my grumbling stomach drew us in like a magnet.

Jen and Julia out front of Specialita` Aperitivi

Since we’re still a bit embarrassed to just start eating the food after ordering a drink, we also ordered two panini’s to feign the appearance of reputable patrons.  This did not impress the waitress. She gave us more attitude than a teenage girl with a limited texting plan.  My perfect command over the pronunciation of our hard-to-pronounce Montepulciano and Nero d’ Avola did nothing to win her over either.  Attitude = Strike ONE!

While we waited for our wine to come, I kept glancing over at the delectable spread presented before us and decided which treats I’d try first.  The wine came quickly and it was the smallest pour we had seen in any restaurant this entire trip.  Cheap = Strike TWO!

Some of the food at Specialita` Apretivi

Nevertheless, I shrugged these things off and made a beeline for the tomato and mozzarella panini.  Insert screeching halt sound here.  Wait a minute, these treats are only for people that ordered an aperitif, not a wine (even though they’re priced the same).

ME: “OK… well, can I have some of your free food anyway?!”  
WAITRESS: “No… you cannot!”

While my family that reads this shrieks in embarrassment… I did not actually say that.  But my body language sure suggested it.  And still, the answer was “no.”  Strike THREE – we’re out of here!

Some more images of the tasty food we couldn’t eat…
…all because we ordered the wrong drink!

So… we headed home to much better meal, prepared by Jen (pasta in a pesto sauce and a finnocio (fennel) salad with fresh bread and wine).  Also, don’t feel too badly for us after the crushing happy hour experience.  Since we believe in controlling your own destiny, we stopped and got ourselves a “pick-me up” to make up for it!

Pastries from a pasticceria (pastry shop)

5 thoughts on “Happy Hour – Although This One Was Unhappy!”

  1. Well the food was definitely a tease! Jen to the rescue with a great dinner though, and the treats you guys picked up look delicious!

  2. I guess it is all part of learning the customs/rules about happy hour at Italian cafes and restaurants although this particular establishment did so in a very rude manner. You definitely don’t find spreads like that for aperitif in French bars, cafes or restaurants. Salute or cin cin!

  3. That’s plain rude! Was a Cinzano or Campari really necessary?! Apparently there are very strict aperitif regulations that everyone in Italy should be aware of in order to get the delicious and free nibbles. I’ll make sure to memorize it before venturing next door to Italy 🙂
    Saw you over on Michel’s blog and thought I’d pop over and say hello.. Bonjour!

  4. As time unfolds, we’ll find out if it was more the rules of the Italian Happy Hour… or more just the rules of this particular establishment (I suspect the later). Either way, we hope to be pros soon!

    Welcome, Sara – I look forward to reading about Sara in Le Petit Village!

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