By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published Jul 19, 2023 at 11:12 AM

Happy hour at a place called Aperitivo? Is that ironic? Maybe. But it seems to be working for one of the city’s most overlooked gems.

It was February of 2020 when Apertiivo opened its doors at 311 N. Plankinton Ave. with the goal of bringing the Italian tradition of pre-dinner snacks and drinks to life in a city better known for its beer-swilling “happy hours.”

But, as the fates would have it, a pandemic got in the way. For a good long while, there was no communal snacking, no socializing over low abv spritzes and amaro-based cocktails.

Amaro spritzX

Three years later, co-owner Richard Kerhin says he’s switched up the model for the venue, which he’d very much conceptualized as more of a bar, but which customers have come to appreciate more as a lunch and dinner destination.

“As we started to get busier following the pandemic, the aperitivo concept just seemed to confuse folks more than anything. So, after three years, we’ve switched to a more traditional happy hour model,” says Kerhin, noting that they’ve also shifted away from morning breakfast, due to an overall lack of traffic prior to the lunch hour.

But the changes seem to suit the beautifully appointed bar and restaurant, which welcomes guests with its beautiful wooden bar, roomy booths and warm industrial quarters inside and a spacious, beautifully landscaped bricked-in patio where folks can enjoy Aperitivo’s excellent sandwiches or salads over the lunch hour, snacks and drinks in the early evening and hand-tossed 12” pizzas, and housemade pasta specials at dinner.

Cuban sandwich
Cuban sandwich

The happiest 2 hours of the day

Settle in for happy hour at Aperitivo, which takes place Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m., and you’ll find an assortment of well-priced offerings from which to choose. Both food and drink offerings are priced at just $6 and include an assortment of house wines (Prosecco, Chardonnay, rosé, Cabernet and Tempranillo) and cocktails, including the apropos Aperol spritz, a champagne cocktail, Paloma, Moscow mule and (of course) a Wisconsin Old Fashioned. 

Food options, which Kerhin says will change on a fairly regular basis included items like hummus and pita, a small plate of spaghetti and meatballs, chicken Caesar salad and a quarter pound burger with cheese (as well as lettuce, tomato and onion on the side). 

Quarter pound cheeseburgerX

Individual two topping pizzas (about 7-8 inches) are perfect for sharing and can be customized with ingredients like pepperoni, Italian sausage, bacon, ham, chicken breast, bell pepper, red onion. Mushrooms, olives, giardinira, grape tomatoes, caramelized onion, feta, parmesan and blue cheese.  Pictured is a pizza with caramelized onions and blue cheese.


There are also additional items on the regular menu that make fine happy hour choices. That includes cheese and charcuterie boards ($16-$20), bacon jam flatbread (bacon onion jam, creamy gorgonzola, arugula, parmesan, $18), and noshable brussels sprouts prepared with red onions, herbs and sultanas ($9).

Brussels sproutsX

Is happy hour more Americanized than aperitivo?  Sure it is. But it’s also an offering that encourages folks to gather, socialize, drink and nibble while winding down after a long day. And, in the end, that sounds pretty darn perfect.

Aperitivo is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Happy hour takes place Tuesday through Friday from 4 to 6 p.m.

Guests interested in renting the private dining space adjacent to Aperitivo for parties of 50-60 guests can inquire by reaching out to Kerhin at

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.