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International Intrigue: Aperitivo & Pintxo Pote
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International Intrigue by Katie Lempke

International Intrigue: Aperitivo and Pintxo Pote

By Katie Lempke

International Intrigue. Photo by Katie Lempke. Donosti Bahia. Photo by Katie Lempke. International Intrigue. Photo by Katie Lempke.

La Dolce Vita, the sweet life, is not just a saying but a way of life for Italians. In Italy, the lifestyle
embraces a laid back and rush-free mentality. If you visit, you will quickly find out that the typical 
evening for an Italian is to start off with aperitivo. The experience is not done in a timely fashion; 
the idea is to become consumed with the pure enjoyment of the drinks, food and company.

The experience of aperitivo (a-pear-eh-tee-vo) is an Italian tradition. Aperitivo is literally a pre-meal
drink that is intended to stimulate the appetite. Over time, it has become a ritual of going out to
one of the many bars that are all over the peninsula for a cheap and delicious meal.
Andiamo per aperitivo!” translates into “Let us go for aperitivo,” and is the most casual way to
invite friends and family out for drinks. The length of the aperitivo doesn’t matter, as they often
start around 7 pm and go until 11, with the drink and buffet-style meal that could last two, three
or more hours! Italians order dishes to share and are normally full after this. The meals are inexpensive
and you get discounts if you keep ordering drinks.

Italians take the time to savor their meals and sip their drinks while
embracing the people and conversation at the table.

Aperitivo is a hang out. They don’t worry about what they have to do later or tomorrow, they live
in the moment and take the needed break to celebrate life and downtime.

International Intrigue Pintxo Pote. Photo by Katie Lempke. International Intrigue Pintxo Pote. Photo by Katie Lempke. International Intrigue Aperitivo. Photo by Katie Lempke.

In San Sebastián, Spain—the Basque country—has pintxo pote (peench-o) (po-tay), which is one day
a week where you can go to a bar and get one pintxo and one drink for 2 Euros (about $3.00) from
7–11 pm. A pintxo is a bite-size dish that is similar to tapas and pote is your drink. You make your own
meal and then add your drink. This gastronomic idea started in Vitória, the capital of the Basque country, and because of the financial crisis in Spain the bars and restaurants needed to do something to stay in business.

Each neighborhood bar has its pintxo pote night on a different day. If someone wanted to, they could
bar-hop, but it’s typical to frequent your local pintxo bar. The drinks range from wine and beer to
lejia (lay-he-a), which is beer mixed with lemonade. The pintxos vary from bar to bar, but it is typical to
see eggs, tuna, crab, ham or shrimp in the dishes. This dining experience has become a staple for the
Basque country and has everyone taking advantage of the nightlife. Everyone, from college students to
families, crowd the bars for a pintxo meal. The goal in San Sebastián is to socialize and to have fun. You make the time to stop, take in the atmosphere and savor the delicious food with your inexpensive drink for the night. Check out this video, “24 Hours in San Sebastián,” to experience a day in
San Sebastián.

International Intrigue. Photo by T Lempke. International Intrigue Patio. Photo by Katie Lempke. International Intrigue Wine. Photo by Katie Lempke. International Intrigue Pintxo Pote Group. Photo provided by Katie Lempke.

The long, relaxing nature of aperitivo and pintxo pote—which incorporate both the bar and dining
aspects of the venues—is what makes the experiences unique. Patrons are not rushed and have the
chance to take the downtime that is needed at the end of the day. The dinners and drinks make for
a pleasant evening that can be more frequently enjoyed due to the reasonable prices. These daily
breaks for aperitivo, or once a week for pintxo pote, contribute to the life and atmosphere of Italy and
San Sebastián. The delicious food and range of options ensures everyone at the table is satisfied.
Regular patronage to local bars and restaurants makes the area you live in more alive. Aperitivo and
pintxo pote are what make the beautiful culture and life in the cities of Italy and in San Sebastián
so sweet.

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About the Author

Katie Lempke is a senior at Marquette University studying English Literature with an Italian minor. She is a Global Village Ambassador for students that come to Marquette for their study abroad programs. As an Ambassador, Katie helps the international students get accustomed to life in the United States and at Marquette. For this article, she interviewed her two roommates, Ana Gutierrez and Maria Romero Garmendia, and neighbor Amaia Irigoien from San Sebastián, Spain. She also interviewed her other neighbor, Enrica Cardillo, from Rome, Italy. Katie had the chance to study abroad in Rome this past summer, which also contributed to the research behind this article. She hopes to continue writing and one day live abroad to experience as many cultures as she can.