An evening aperitivo is, in this budget traveler’s opinion, one of Italy’s finer food and drink culture traditions. Other European countries have their versions of this (like tapas in Spain) but for some bizarre, ridiculous, inexplicably rude reason, it is not a mainstream thing in America. In case anyone isn’t aware, to be frank about it, it means free snacks. Free snacks with your drink. And I’m not talking a tiny and suspicious bowl of nuts that has been on the bar since before you were born, I mean actual delicious makes you able to handle your alcohol food. Few things go better with drinks than free food, and I will stand by that remark through my end of days. Some places have more than others, better than others, and while there are plenty of really great places, the one that stands out in Rome is Freni e Frizioni.
Photo via Sarah Freeman
Just off the popular Piazza Trilussa in Rome’s picturesque Trastevere neighborhood, Freni e Frizioni can be recognized by new patrons not from a sign but instead by the crowd. In the warm summer months both locals and foreigners pour out from the bar taking up the outdoor seating as well as the wall and steps surrounding the piazza. Don’t worry, the available open space makes for a pleasant, relaxed mingley type of crowd, not a Black Friday chaotic type. There is a place for everyone.
Inside order a six euro decent sized glass of good wine, or if you prefer choose from a wide selection of cocktails or beers (no worries if you can’t read the Italian menu, the friendly bilingual staff will help you pick something you’d like) and with that comes an endless ticket to the buffet style table of “snacks.” I use quotes because we aren’t talking chips and olives, this is fork food. There is usually an incredible mix of pastas, varying salads with delicious ingredients, bread, and sweet fruits as desserts. When the kitchen door swings open to bring out a new bowl, the chef can always be seen working away on the next round.
This is the ultimate aperitivo spot for travelers because it is a great deal, you can make a dinner out of this, it’s open late and every day, it’s easy to find and in a beautiful safe and fun neighborhood, it’s got great atmosphere and friendly staff, and the set up makes it easy to come with groups or make new friends. This is the perfect Roman evening, whether you’re Roman or not.