Affordable Europe: Appetizers in Rome

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As you probably know, The New York Times has undertaken another innovative blogging project, this time sending columnist Matt Gross, a.k.a. The Frugal Traveler, across Europe on The Grand Tour on €100 a day. So far he's been averaging about $100 a day, which is slightly less.

The Frugal Traveler is in Rome today, and I wonder if he discovered my favorite Italian word—aperitivo, or "cocktails with light snacks." It's the late afternoon trend. For the truly frugal traveler, it could be the evening feast.

Up and down the peninsula, aperitivi hour usually begins after 6 pm. Depending on the region, aperitivi are local drinks such as prosecco (a light sparkling wine), spritz (Aperol or Campari and wine), and, of course, a glass of your favorite red or white.

For table service, aperitivi are always accompanied by stuzzichini, such as taralli (Pugliese pretzels), olives, and tartlets. More recently, bars are also offering buffets with serving simple rice, pasta, cheese and salami tapas for 10 euro, drink included, so that frugal travelers can not just get their fill but fill up.

Incidentally, as I write this in Rome, the Frugal Traveler is munching on bruschetta (pronounced "brusketta"), toasted garlic bread and typically fresh tomatoes and other toppings. It is basically a small appetizer served before a traditional/proper meal begins.

Tonight, the Frugal Traveler is munching at Bruschetteria degli Angeli in the historic district. [Editor's note: The restaurant is next to the tram line stop by the Isola Tiberina, an island in the Tiber River. It's at Piazza Bennedetto Cairoli 2a with about a dozen dark wood tables, a full bar, and a full menu of bruschetta. The house specialty of Bruschetta degli Angeli is a bit of a disappointment: Try one of the dozen-plus other varieties instead.]

I thought the Bruschetteria was an odd choice, an indoor restauranty-bar on a pretty June night when it would make more sense to be outdoors. I found that the bruschette were made on tasteless bread, and the location was void of Italians (many of whom were probably absorbed with Italy's soccer UEFA Euro 2008 cup (2-2, Romania). Mainly it was a nice mix of Americans very interested in getting their faces in the New York Times--which is a perfectly understandable desire, but I felt like I was more at a networking club than just hanging out. I suppose that happens to him all the time.

NOTE: The information about the Bruschetteria was added to this post at 4:35 p.m.

—Erica Firpo, blogging for our Affordable Europe series.

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