What is aperitivo?
It’s early evening, the sun is going down and the city is getting ready for the night. People have just finished working, or are slowly waking up from a long day of slacking. “Facciamoci un aperitivo” (let’s have an aperitivo) is the one sentence you’ll hear everywhere between 6pm and 8pm.
Literally, aperitivo is a pre-dinner drink whose purpose is to ‘stimulate appetite’. In fact, it means ‘going out for drinks and spoiling your dinner all together with snacks of all sorts’. Started in the North (Torino), aperitivo has become a long-cherished tradition throughout Italy and abroad – where it’s often mistakenly confused with ‘happy hour’.
In Sicily, as always, we do it our way – which means more of everything for half the price!
Here’s a list of some of the best places to go for aperitivo in Palermo.
One of my personal favourites.
Location: Piazza Rivoluzione – a nice little square right in the middle of Palermo’s city centre. The area is full of places to eat and drink, suggestive buildings and tiny side streets worth exploring. This place is pretty small and it fills up quite quickly, so I’d recommend going there before the aperitivo officially starts (around 6.30pm).
Food & drinks: you get cocktails, beer and a nice selection of wine (I’d strongly recommend a white wine called Angimbé), and prices are highly accessible. You just have to pay for your drink and you can stuff yourself with food from the buffet – cous cous, pasta salads, bruschette, frittata, potatoes etc. Plenty of veggie options are always available.
Atmosphere: chilled, friendly and informal. Do not expect anything fancy, but do expect a lot of locals and a lot of character. I’d strongly recommend it to young people who want to experience a piece of local life.
Literally next to Cavù, but slightly smaller Also highly recommended.
Location: Piazza Rivoluzione.
Food & drinks: not very different from Cavù. Again, you pay for your drink and get as much food as you want.
Atmosphere: chilled, friendly and informal. Sometimes they have some nice live bands playing.
Great vibe and GREAT food!
Location: Via dell’Orologio 38 – it’s not on the map yet, but it’s opposite Il Siciliano. Very suggestive location, in a tiny back street close to Teatro Massimo and Teatro dei Pupi (puppet theatre) – an area that we call ‘champagneria’.
Food & drinks: the food here gets a 5 star from me, though you won’t have the ‘all you can eat’ option… Still, the shared platter is pretty cheap and the quality is just amazing. The last time I went we shared a platter and three bottles of wine in four (ahem…) and we only paid 15 euro. When you come from crazily expensive London, this sounds like a dream!
Atmosphere: very relaxed and warm, but depending on the times of the week and on the music they play, it can get a bit ‘chavvy’.
Rustic, warm and with delicious platters to share.
Location: Via dell’Orologio 37 – opposite Vespa Café.
Food & drinks: slightly more expensive than Vespa café, but great quality too. The aperitivo platter cost 7 euros per person and you’ll have to pay your drinks on top of it.
Atmosphere: Great for small group of friends or couples who want to enjoy a nice evening out. They often feature excellent live music and it normally gets pretty crowded, so you’d better book a table in advance.
Far to the ‘left’ (politically speaking), you’ll find Bar Garibaldi… a lovely place with a lot of character, nice people and many books.
Food & drinks: similarly to Cavù and Qvivi, you’ll pay for your drinks and get all the food you can eat from the buffet. The food is not super-amazing but the wines are!
Atmosphere: alternative and friendly.
Via Chiavettieri is another small streets that gets a lot of ‘traffic’ at night. It’s very close to Palermo’s harbour and walkable distance from the places mentioned above. The street is full of nice pubs that serve aperitivo. They’re quite small, but they do have outside seating areas. If you don’t find a seat, you can also take your drink outside and stand on the street (nobody will confiscate your glass).
A bit more sophisticated and pricey, but really worth checking out.
Food & drinks: local people often complain about the poor quantity of the food and the high prices of the drinks. Obviously, if you’re used to the ‘all you can eat’ style, this is not the right place to go. But if you’re looking for an exclusive experience in a stunning location, I’d strongly recommend it.
Atmosphere: very stylish and elegant. Great for couples on a romantic evening out.
One of Palermo’s historical cafés still surviving.
Location: Via Principe di Belmonte 107-115 – located on a pedestrial alley between two high streets.
Food & drinks: I’ve been here only once for aperitivo and I honestly liked the wine and snacks they served with it (especially the amazing salted almonds). However, If this is your first time in Palermo, I’d suggest skipping the snacks and going straight for the rosticceria or patisserie – this is what they are really good at. A lot of local people complain about prices and customer service, so just be aware that you might not be treated like a king.
Atmosphere: a bit more sophisticated than other places, but still nothing super-fancy. The piano bar in the outside area makes it a good place for a romantic date or a relaxing evening out.