Lush, being synonymous with abundance, can be related to our main obsessions: food and drink. So why not talking about aperitivo?
“Aperitivo” is almost a holy rite, a marker of identity for Italians.
It’s evening. You walk through the streets of Italian cities such as Milan, Rome, Florence, Turin, Venice… The sun is setting, the clouds have pink-orange hues and a fresh air starts to come. At this point, nothing is better than aperitif. Chilling seated in a bar, inside or outside on the street or in a garden. You have a drink and some finger food, some snacks to stop the hunger before dinner. Who takes a spritz, the classic of aperitivo, who takes a delicious Bellini (prosecco with peach juice splash), or any other cocktail. Depending on the bar, selections of diverse foods arrive. Normally olives, crisps, nuts are served, but also small slices of pizza, pieces of “frittata” (Italian omelette), vegetable salads, small sandwichies, some cheeses and slices of Parma ham. All this in the nice company of friends, having a nice chat. What else?
At the bar, there is the clink of ice, the fizz of soda water and the plop of an olive. And then my Spritz arrives, sunset-hued, bittersweet and perfectly cold. Cin cin. The Spritz can be made with both Aperol and Campari. If your taste verges on the sweeter side, I would recommend the Aperol. If you prefer that bitter tang, go for the Campari. If you can’t decide, you could always go half and half.
What drink better conjures up visions of Venice than a classic Bellini? Created by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar, in 1948, this peachy dream of a cocktail was named after the pale glow of a saint’s toga in a painting by the fteenth-century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini. Bellissimo, indeed! The peaches must be white peaches . . . their fragrance is second to none.
This leads us to the phrase “Let’s be honest: who doesn’t want to be a little bit Italian?” that is the question that introduces the beautiful and amusing book: “Aperitivo: Drinks and Snacks for the Dolce Vita.”
Indeed aperitivo is presented as one of the main elements of the “dolce vita” (sweet life), compared together with a nice Vespa ride in a fancy suit.
“Aperitivo: Drinks and Snacks for the Dolce Vita” brings together 80 recipes from across Italy, and tells the stories behind the food and the drinks that shape the aperitif hour. The book starts with the aperitivi themselves such as Campari and Aperol, as well as recipes for classic Italian cocktails (including the perfect Negroni) and a guide to Italian wine. The author then introduces simple recipes for Antipasto (starter) and Pinzimonio. Then there are the recipes for tramezzini, bruschette and crostini, seafood, meat and fowl, vegetables, dairy and eggs, bread, baking, and dolci (desserts).
Deep-fried risotto balls filled with traditional Sicilian beef ragù, known as ‘Arancini’.
In the distance, like a mirage, a uniformed waiter approaches with a silver tray. Upon it are a small bucket of ice and a frosty glass of Aperol Spritz, its orange and olive garnish gleaming like a Renaissance brooch. And alongside that lies a selection of triangular sandwiches, almost doll-like in their daintiness. This is Venice. And these are tramezzini…
Everything in the frame of very good descriptions, made with a nice, flowing writing. Then beautiful and catchy illustrations make your mouth water and eage to prepare and enjoy all the tasty recipes.
It’s time for Aperitivo.
Crisp, lightly battered seafood, served preferably al fresco with wedges of lime and a Bellini…
The author of the book, Kay Plunkett-Hogge
About the author: Kay Plunkett-Hogge is a well-respected food and drink writer with a wide culinary repertoire and an in-depth knowledge of the drinks industry. Kay started her food career by setting up a bespoke location catering service for the fashion business, having been a model agent in New York and London, and a movie co-ordinator in Bangkok and Los Angeles during the ‘80s and ‘90s. Since then, she has worked as a writer and a food consultant, most notably with the team behind the successful Leon restaurants and is coauthor of Leon: Family & Friends. Kay’s acclaimed cocktail book, Make Mine a Martini, was chosen by the Financial Times as one of the best food and drink books of the year and its companion, A Sherry & A Little Plate of Tapas, was published in August 2016. Her latest book, Adventures of A Terribly Greedy Girl, a memoir with recipes, was published in February 2017 and hailed by Metro as ‘a heady and enchanting book and a manifesto for our times.’
Previously from Kay Plunkett-Hogge Adventures of a Terribly Greedy Girl A Sherry & A Little Plate of Tapas Make Mine a Martini.
Photography: Tamin Jones