Aperitivo Hour is the essence of Italian culture, bringing together friends, family, and colleagues during sunset over a bitter aperitif and cicchetti, readying the palate for a delicious dinner ahead. Whilst this iconic Italian pastime is not the norm in the UK, there are some great hidden gems in London serving up the very best aperitifs and antipasti, so you can enjoy your own classic Aperitivo Hour without jumping on a plane this Summer. Bellisimo!
Cecconi’s, Mayfair, Soho, Shoreditch
Cecconi’s is a Soho-House owned hot spot and one of the best Italian restaurants in town.You can enjoy an elegant evening Spritz or a classic Negroni whilst enjoying the sun set al fresco. There are a few different locations in London including Cecconi’s Mayfair, Cecconi’s Pizza Bar in Soho and Cecconi’s in Shoreditch. Each offer a fabulous aperitivo, with cicchetti alongside larger dishes and pizza if you decide to make an evening of it. We certainly recommend that you do!
Considered the king of small plate restaurants, Polpo’s Venetian cicchetti are legendary in the London food scene. They host their very own Aperitivo Time every day between 3pm and 6pm, where you can sip on a Spritz and nibble on bar snacks for £5. Select cicchetti are only £1 a piece. Chin Chin!
Named after the most famous bar in Italy, Harry’s Bar on James Street serves a daily aperitivo menu. Their cicchetti menu includes classics such as zucchini fritti, truffle arancini and a delicious looking N’duja flatbread – spicy Calabrian style pork, mascarpone, chilli and fennel seed flatbread with Parmesan.
They serve six variations of the Negroni, including the ‘North to South Negroni’ using ingredients from opposite ends of Italy – Campari from Lombardy, Barolo Chinato Vermouth from Piedmont and Panarea Sunset gin from a small island near Sicily.
Bar Termini, Soho
One of London’s favourite gems to get an authentic Italian Negroni, Bar Termini in Soho serves up a divine Aperitivo. They have a menu filled with Campari-based cocktials, including a Campari Old Fashioned and Sbagliato. They also have a special £4 Aperitivo menu available between 5-7pm. Get there early though as it fills up quickly!
A secret cocktail bar that is the perfect spot for an aperitif before a huge feast is hidden underneath Marylebone’s pan-regional Italian restaurant Bernardi’s, which specialises in vermouth and amaro-based Italian classic cocktails. Graze on cicchetti and pizzetti before making your way back upstairs for dinner. Salute.
Every Thursday and Friday from 5pm – 9pm, Petersham Nurseries host their own Aperitivo Hour at The Delicatessen on King Street, serving up Italian wines, charcuterie and cheese. The wines are available by the glass from Petersham Cellar or take your pick from any bottle at retail price and enjoy at The Delicatessen for a corkage price.
The Delicatessen bring the spirit of an authentic Italian café to London, with a huge brass counter of seasonal and daily-changing quiches, sandwiches and salads.
Mele e Pere is an independent Italian restaurant, with added Soho spirit! It is home to London’s largest vermouth collection, including their own homemade version with 20 botanicals. Their downstairs Aperitivo Bar serves a variety of cocktails and prosecco on tap, although the vermouth on draught steals the show.
The menu in the downstairs bar is the same as the upstairs restaurant, with antipasti dishes such as Proscuitto di Norcia, gnocchi fritti and grand Padano.
Tucked away on a side road off the Clapham High Street, Sorella (meaning sister in Italian) is a neighbourhood restaurant from the team behind The Dairy, Counter Culture and Darby’s. Owner Robin Gill took inspiration from his time working at the Amalfi Coast, where he fell in love with the Italian attitude towards cooking and eating.
The Aperitivi menu includes the classics, a Negroni, Americano, a Vermouth, plus some Spritz cocktails such as the VW Spritz, made with Vault vermouth bianco, lemon, honey and Veuve Cliquot.
In terms of cicchetti, guests will struggle to choose between the truffle and the beef ragu arancini, plus there is a selection of antipasti and charcuterie, with coppa, salami and prosciutto on offer. The burrata with grilled peach, tomatoes, mint and chilli is a must-try!
Ombra is a take on a Venetian bacaro, serving up cicchetti, mains, spritz’s and cocktails canalside in Hackney. The very reasonably priced cicchetti starts at £1.80, with River Teign oysters just £2.50. There is a large outdoor area, perfect for those Summer sunset evenings.
The drinks list is comprised of all the usual Aperitivo suspects – Vergano Americano, Spritz Aperol, Spritz Campari, Negroni Spagliato and the classic Negroni.
Ombra is a cheaper and more laid-back affair, right on Regent’s Canal, the iconic, artsy, cooler-than-cool East London hangout.
*Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, some of these venues may not have fully reopened yet. We recommend checking ahead of time to avoid disappointment.