Apericena, a delicious mystery. Especially for non-Italian speakers, this neologism might sound puzzling, though it has earned a mention in the prestigious Treccani Encyclopedia, as it quickly became the surrealist protagonist of our time. This newly-coined event literally disrupted the rigid time scheme of conventional meals like a seductive dissident of good daily habits. In fact, it can be regarded as an informal evening meal involving aperitifs and tapas-style food in the form of a buffet that does not take place at a fixed time. Yet, it can be praised and rediscovered also at home, especially during times in which a careless spring aperitif, extended beyond sunset – the sole time frame indication you can think of for an apericena – seems very distant from us. A light aperitif buffet makes your life easier as it requires nothing but the desire – and the will – to shake off a tough day as soon as possible. It allows you to taste different foods, unleashes your creativity in the kitchen, explores diversity day after day. No more buffets overcrowded with hundreds of options but rather targeted and mouth-watering small portions, tasty and often nutritionally balanced, which at the same time enhance your drink of choice. At the beach or in a meadow on the Dolomites, in the empty cities in summer or in the spring twilight that call for one drink after another, breaking free from schedules is the best response to the desire of not feeling constrained, tied to rhythms imposed by others, free to create our own time. Like its cousin, the evergreen midday aperitif nostalgically evoking past times along with the polished bowls lined up on the counter, the apericena gives its best with the magical combination of food + wine, borrowed from its closest relative (and later extended to the brunch too, the only breakfast where you can drink alcohol without being given the evil eye – God bless the Bloody Mary). The usual glass of Prosecco DOC that refreshes the throat and comes with olives, peanuts and a few canapés – just to settle your growling stomach so you don't starve until lunchtime – is still the linchpin of every end-of-day break.
The perfect match of cocktails, wine and food typical of the aperitif buffet is often interpreted with flexibility and creativity by chefs, mixologists and even pizza makers from all over the world, who came up with incredibly delicious creations.
Tasty dishes go hand in hand with a good glass of Prosecco DOC, whose qualities are highly appreciated across all regions. At SanBrite, a stone's throw from Cortina, its soft and fresh bubbles enhance the taste of one of the most famous dishes of the Michelin-starred restaurant (Mountain Pine spaghetti, served in a flamboyant bowl covered with plant buds). Farther south, descending to the Amalfi Coast, one of the highlights of the Faro di Capo d'Orso restaurant (near Salerno) is Leeks cooked under the ashes, a purely vegan dish rich in contrasting flavours that will tease your taste buds; Prosecco DOC is, once again, the perfect pair for a smooth tasting experience. Italy's most famous sparkling wine also enhances the crunchy and soft components of the Tagliolini cooked in tomato water with whitefish tartare and ground burnt onion, according to the haute cuisine standards of La Casa degli Spiriti in Verona. We are talking about gourmet restaurants, a sector that has quickly adapted to changing times and new needs.
Every dish has a love story with Prosecco DOC, from Southern Italy, the land of sumptuous creations that have the taste of the sea blended with vegetables, emphasised by the right bead, to the peculiarities of the North, where the combination of pizza + sparkling wine has become a must of social apericena events; not to forget foreign markets where brilliant intuitions and creative cultural crossovers are booming. The apericena has become an opportunity to loosen the rigid schemes of a centuries-old tradition.
Is there an exact time to start an apericena? Theoretically, no. It's a profoundly inclusive event that contains the moment of dinner while removing all the non-essential features to get to the core: satisfying your appetite with tempting dishes and quenching your thirst with the best drink. At the Ceresio 7 restaurant in Milan, drinks are meticulously designed around the personality of the guests sitting at the bar or on the terrace and consist of low-alcohol cocktails based on Prosecco DOC mixed with juices of fruit macerated in apple vinegar and sugar. At the Quanto Basta restaurant, in the heart of the historic centre of Lecce, behind the Duomo, the traditional Spritz was reinvented and became Fragoletta (in honour of the Italian composer Rossini), with strawberries, vincotto vinegar, apple vinegar and Prosecco DOC; it was also transformed in a tribute to bubbles, mixing Amaro di Angostura, gin, chamomile syrup and shaken pineapple extract, all filled up with Prosecco DOC. Who would not like to hop from one tray to another following a series of well-designed, delicious, satisfying single portions that are a feast for the eyes and palate? A style loved by millennials, perhaps, but after all, the apericena knows no age as it breaks down social and time barriers. The same goes for the alici in tortiera (anchovies cooked in the baking tin) of the Quisisana restaurant in Capri, where you can sit in the terrace overlooking the sea stacks as you breathe in, embrace and eat the whole Mediterranean Sea while the umami taste of the bluefish cooked with breadcrumbs, a peasant food par excellence, is enhanced in the pairing with friggitelli, caressing the palate.
The apericena conciliates everyone’s needs, those who are hungry and those who are not, those who love to chase new tastes bite after bite and those who would spend their lives with their feet under a table. The neologism that linguists refer to as a portmanteau – a blend of words, in this case, aperitivo (aperitif) and cena (dinner) – is closely related to another very Italian term that still evokes the concept of time: espresso. Not in the sense of the coffee served at the bar, but as in ‘express’, rapid creation and execution of a dish, almost on the spot. Even though this could apparently clash with the extended hours of the apericena, it is actually a key component of the happening. Danilo Cortellini, UK Brand Ambassador of Prosecco DOC, gives his interpretation of this form of aperitif buffet through his eat & drink recipes that not only enrich the apericena but also make it perfect for all seasons. The Sea bream carpaccio with pomegranate sorbet and Prosecco DOC Rosé is a fresh dish, of the highest quality, which requires little preparation and is guaranteed to satisfy the palate of all 'sparkling wine and fish' lovers. The chef recommends serving the sorbet in iced glasses to maintain the right texture.
Prep: 25 mins
Cook: 5 mins
2 sea bream 500-600 g each (frozen at -20 °C for at least 24 hours)
2 teaspoons pomegranate seeds
1 ripe avocado
20 g peeled and roasted hazelnuts
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup basil or other herbs for garnishing
Salt and pepper to taste
For the sorbet
200 ml Prosecco DOC Rosé
100 ml freshly squeezed pomegranate juice
25 g sugar
Start with the sorbet: dissolve the sugar with the pomegranate, let it cool and add the Prosecco Rosé. Place it in the freezer (you will have to scrape it to get the right consistency) or in the ice cream maker.
For the fish: using a very sharp knife, cut some fillets from the central part making sure that the fish is clean (rinse it with running water if necessary). Dry it thoroughly and remove the bones with tweezers. Cut it into very thin slices keeping the skin down.
Mash the avocado with a little lemon, salt and pepper, into a puree and put it in a pastry bag.
Arrange the fish slices on a large plate and season with lemon, extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Add some avocado cream, coarsely chop the hazelnuts and the pomegranate seeds. Add the leaves of radicchio and basil or the herb of your choice. Serve the sorbet on the side, still frozen.
Danilo Cortellini also proposes delicious cheese Zeppole with Prosecco DOC Zabaione in two variants: with crispy bacon or in the vegetarian version, without meat.
Prep: 50 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Categories: starter / main course
For the Zeppole:
75 ml water
75 ml milk
60 g butter
90 g 00 flour
20 g grated Grana Padano
A pinch of salt
For the Zabaione:
4 egg yolks
100 ml Prosecco DOC Brut
40 g grated Grana Padano
1 g saffron
120 g whipped cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Grana Padano crust, swollen and ground
2 egg whites
Grated Grana Padano Riserva
8 slices of crispy bacon
If you've never made the cheese crust swell, you will be amazed at how simple it is! Place the crust on a dish and put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds - 1 minute and watch it inflate. Remove the gummy or singed parts with a sharp knife. Let it cool and
grind it with a blender.
To prepare the Zabaione with Prosecco DOC, thoroughly mix the egg yolks with the Prosecco, grated Grana Padano and saffron in a large steel bowl. Place the bowl in a bain-marie and cook gently while stirring to create a soft cream similar to Zabaione. Never let the water reach a boil to prevent the eggs from splitting.
Once the mixture is thick and creamy, remove from heat and allow to cool. Add salt and pepper to your taste and mix gently. The result should be a soft and delicate texture similar to Chantilly cream.
To make the Choux pastry, melt the butter in a mixture of milk and water, then gradually add the sifted flour, whisking gently. Add a pinch of salt and cook for a couple of minutes while mixing with a wooden spatula to make sure the flour is evenly cooked. Remove from heat and, while the mixture is still hot, add the eggs one at a time, stirring gently.
Allow the pastry to cool and place it in a pastry bag. Spread the parchment paper on a baking sheet and work the Zeppole into dough rings, about 10 cm in diameter. You can make a second layer of dough to create higher, softer rings.
Bake them in the oven at 170 °C for about 18 minutes or until they turn golden brown and have doubled in size. Allow to cool down. For a crunchier crust, brush the Zeppole with beaten egg whites and sprinkle them with the ground cheese crust. Bake again at 180 °C for 2 minutes and allow to cool.
Cut the Zeppole horizontally and fill them with abundant Prosecco DOC Zabaione. Sprinkle them with grated Grana Padano and chop the crispy bacon on top. Eat while still hot (who could resist,
Pizza is also a great alternative for an apericena menu. A mainstay of Italian gastronomy, it can be an excellent solution to satisfy the desire to try different tastes, giving a twist to the aperitif buffet. After confirming beyond doubt the absolute deliciousness of a sparkling Prosecco DOC paired with pizza, in all its variations of toppings and doughs, all that is left is an embarrassment (and curiosity) of riches. A traditional Margherita or Marinara from the most authentic Neapolitan tradition of Gino Sorbillo, well risen, with a considerable cornicione (outer edge), to double up and polish off voraciously, to pair with a classic Prosecco DOC Brut, served very cold, to help you keep the palate clean and lighten up the chewing.
A brilliant wine & food pairing lesson can be learnt in the lands of Prosecco DOC, specifically, in the province of Belluno, where Denis Lovatel opened his Pizzeria Da Ezio. Being a mountain man, he likes his pizzas thinner and crunchy – a crunch, as he calls it – with toppings that greatly enhance, specifically, white pizzas. This is where the Prosecco DOC expresses all its freshness and aromatic vivacity, making the cheese creams feel lighter in the mouth as well as the savoury, tasty and most important ingredients, so they can be eaten at any time. Prosecco DOC is versatile and fresh, it can be light or supportive as needed. The flexibility in time, structure and gastronomy of the apericena is balanced by Prosecco DOC’s quiet elegance of unshakable certainty. Par tout.