It’s the most wonderful time of the year…for an Aperitivo Party!
I had the pleasure this week to cater the Woodcroft College Board end-of-year Christmas celebration with an Aperitivo Hour. Thirty guests were treated to some bite-sized Italian nibbles to accompany the popping of Prosecco corks and clinking of wine glasses in a toast to the end of the academic year. The party was hosted by Woodcroft’s new Principal, Shannon Warren, ahead of dinner at Windy Point.
Aperitivo is (finally) becoming a ‘thing’ in Australia, yet it is to Italian culture what a pie and chips is to Aussie footy: essential, not to be compromised, and quite simply, necessary.
Think of aperitivo as the food and drink you have in anticipation of eating food and drink. Usually an aperitif is served, which could be as fancy as a cocktail or Spritz, or as simple as satisfying as a chilled Prosecco or wine, and the food is savory and light. Sharing the root of its name with the word ‘aprire’, aperitivo is served to open the appetite.
The Woodcroft menu consisted of two varieties of cocktail sticks, an assortment of three crostini, and the usual suspects – olives, taralli and crisps – for that little extra salty fix!
Caprese Sticks and Proscuitto Bites started off the affair. These appetisers are designed to be eaten in one bite, and I especially love how the flavours are so easily balanced and how the cherry tomato bursts in your mouth, almost like a palette cleanser, cutting through the saltiness of the other appetisers. And is there anything more Italian than the red, white and green and flavour profile of tomato, bocconcini and basil?
The crostini selection was a hit, and I loved how every guest appeared to quickly develop a favourite: there was one man who was all about the Prosciutto, Pear and Gorgonzola Crostini, and another woman who passed on the Cannellini Bean and Pesto but could not say no to the Avocado, Grapefruit, Goats Curd and Dijon Vinagrette. I mixed it up this time round, alternating the crostini with red and yellow grapefruit slices; they looked interesting on the plate and became a point of contention between Team Ruby and Team Yellow. This just meant more necessary sampling of the varieties so they could be sure to decide on a verdict. Interestingly, I think the yellow might have won out!
The biggest surprise for me was the reaction to the Cannellini Bean and Pesto Crostini, primarily because it was a new recipe I have added to the repertoire. I tweaked the Cannellini Bean Dip recipe I made for a Long Italian Lunch recently, infusing the oil first with whole garlic, thyme and rosemary in a hot pan to develop a slightly smokey quality to the flavour profile, before blitzing in with the beans. I had a lot of basil left over from the weekend – and it is the time of the year for good basil – so I whipped up my own pesto to dollop on top of the bean paste and a few pine nuts for both garnish and texture. To partially quote Phoebe Buffay, I won’t necessarily claim that my ‘pesto is the besto’ but I’d say it was ‘pretty good-o!’
Gluten free options of each crostino were identified by a little Italian flag. My justification? Italian food is very accommodating to every dietary requirement! Tonight, I waved a flag for the gluten intolerant!
It’s a good sign when you are only left with a few cocktail sticks and a couple of crostini are all that is left of your Aperitivo Party. There were just a small handful of crostini and cocktail sticks wrapped in plastic and left in the fridge for Shannon should a midnight snack be on the cards – frankly, any time of the day or night is a good time for aperitivo!
Thanks to Shannon and for the Woodcroft College Board for having me at their party. I had a great time chatting with you all and making sure your stomachs were well and truly open for the dinner at Windy Point!
Interested in having your own Aperitivo Party in 2019?
Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Facebook or Instagram (@aldoincucina) to talk more!