For those unfamiliar with the concept, think happy hour meets buffet… aperitivo is bound to be your new best friend. You pay one set price for a drink (take your pick of a cocktail, wine, beer, something non-alcoholic) and it comes with a buffet. The concept of a buffet can range from some chips and olives to a full Italian dinner, complete with pasta and desserts. While technically the bigger spread is known as an “apericena”, I can’t say I heard a single Italian call it that during the four months I lived in Florence
Aperitivo can be enough food for dinner and the timing is right too, for American standards at least. They typically start at 6:00 or 7:00pm and go until 9:00. What I’m trying to say here is that if you play your cards right, you can get dinner and a drink for around 10 euro.
My friends in Florence and I took it upon ourselves to master aperitivo and made it a tradition to spend Wednesday evenings chatting over apertivo during our semester abroad. In the beginning, we tried to sample a new place every week.
In the end we had a cycle of favorites: the places where you got the most for your money.
Location: via De’ Macci, 85r
Note: only available on Wednesday!
Ganzo is Florence University of the Arts’ student run restaurant, so not only did we enjoy aperitivo there some weeks, but we also took part in it. My roommate managed and served as part of her hospitality classes. I had exhibition openings (AperiArt) for my curatorial class, which rotates exhibitions of local artist and student works.
This is undoubtably the best aperitivo deal we found and I would argue that it’s the best deal in Florence. For €5, you get a drink ticket and access to the buffet, which rotates throughout the night and always ends with some sort of dessert. According to one of my professors, Ganzo has the best female bartender in the city. There are also a selection of wines each week, presented by sommeliers (and sommeliers-in-training).
The food can be slightly inconsistent even when some of the same dishes are served, because it is student-run and a little experimental. Ganzo was always our backup…I mean, it’s pretty hard to go wrong at that price.
Location: via De’ Benci, 30
Ganzo might be the best deal for apertivo, but Gallery was by far my favorite. The food was always delicious (and warm—something you learn to appreciate at aperitivo). They have a rotating selection of food that always included at least one warm pasta dish, and often a soup. As a vegetarian, I always left feeling very full. Some of my favorite offerings were the carrots, roasted potatoes, the antipasti…okay, everything was pretty much my favorite. I’m talking 15+ regularly refilled options to satisfy the vegetarians and meat eaters.
Gallery was not only my favorite aperitivo, but one of my favorite spots to eat in Florence.
Moyo (& Oibo)
Location: Via dei Benci, 23 (& Borgo dei Greci, 1)
Moyo & Oibo are located blocks apart and might seem like major competitors—until you realize they have the same owner. These two fusion spots are great for when you want something a little different, from the upscale vibe to the menu that strays from traditional Italian fare. Ironically enough, Moyo was my first lunch in Florence!
Moyo & Oibo offer themed aperitivo specials and different offerings on certain days of the week. Things change quickly, so your best checking their websites to get an idea of what might be coming up. Expect a crowd that is just as eclectic as the innovative, beautifully decorated cocktails and varied aperitivo offerings.
Pro-tips: walk past Oibo before you commit to going inside. The aperitivo is kept along a window at the front of the restaurant and you can peek to see what they have and how stocked it is—the food goes fast here, and they aren’t always too keen on refilling the buffet area. If one is crowded, head to the other! Or you can always cross the street and go back to Gallery again…
Enoteca Alla Sosta dei Papi
Location: Borga la Croce, 81r
I won’t try to fool you—this enoteca isn’t technically an aperitivo spot. It is, however, a little hole in the wall wine shop, great for a casual evening stop. They sell vino sfuso (read: bring your own bottle to fill with wine and take home) and their own pre-bottled for under €4. The prices can’t be beat!
When my mom came to visit, she really wanted a wine tasting experience, but we just didn’t have time to head to a winery. Instead, we brought her here. Emily, my mom, and I each ordered a different glass (which they quite literally fill to the brim), drank a third, and then rotated. In the evening, different crostini are available with cheese/ meats, and they also served us a plate of pappa al pomodoro.
The employees don’t speak much English, a welcome rarity in Florence for someone who wanted cultural immersion, so our “tasting” experience really felt authentic. The shop itself is pretty tiny too, which adds to the atmosphere. I never saw any tourists when I was there—hopefully I’m not letting the cat out of the bag with this one.
Note: These prices are 100% accurate as of May 2018. I did my best to double check that prices were still accurate at the time this was published, but be aware that there may have been fluctuations.
All of these spots are truly my favorites—I haven’t received any compensation to write about them.